THE PHANTOM WAS CLOSE

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Victor Litovkin Obshchaya Gazeta, No. 39, September 27, 2001, p. 3 EV

One theory has it that a foreign submarine was responsible for the sinking of the Kursk in August 2000. However, the truth seems to be undesirable for all involved. The public has been gradually prepared for the truth to remain undiscovered forever.

The press center for the international operation to raise the Kursk nuclear submarine opened in Murmansk for the second time this month. Members of the government commission – presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhemsky, Vice Admiral Mikhail Barskov, deputy chief of the Navy, head of the Rubin Central Design Bureau Igor Spassky, and Commander of the Northern Fleet Vyacheslav Popov – have managed to take part in it again. The latest press conference has provided no new facts to those who have long been tracing the fate of the sunken nuclear submarine.

As a matter of fact, the major reason for the disaster is known already: explosion of a torpedo in the first compartment. Deputy Prime Minister Ilia Klebanov, chairman of the government commission, recently confirmed the same version of events. The original reason for the explosion – what caused it – is the only dark spot in the whole story thus far, as the officials say. The public has been gradually prepared for this to remain undiscovered forever.

Meanwhile, the naval command has never publicly denied its main theory, which has it that a collision with a submarine belonging to a NATO member state caused the explosion. Many experts we consulted recalled the statement made by Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov last November: “I have the facts, but lack evidence so far. I will get it, it is only a matter of time.” Enough time has passed, but no evidence of the Kursk’s collision with a foreign submarine has been divulged.

The reason is simple – no collision took place. Simple arithmetic, common sense, and elementary logic show that no foreign submarine could have managed to escape from the crash site without leaving any traces of the disaster and without serious damage to its own hull.

Still, experts we interviewed are certain that there was a foreign submarine in the neighborhood when the Kursk sank. Not very close, but at a distance of 150-200 meters from the Russian submarine. Moreover, it also sustained internal damage after the explosions in the torpedo compartment of the Kursk. Quite possibly, some of its crewmembers were killed. As commander of the Northern Fleet Admiral Popov asserted at the time, specialists in hydro-acoustics used the Polinom system to detect an SOS signal emitted by some kind of mechanical device from the bottom of the Barents Sea. The Kursk had no such emitters.

Many also recall a report from a correspondent of the RTR channel made from the deck of the cruiser Petr Velikii, saying that sailors saw a green buoy close to the ship. No buoys of this coloring are used by the Russian Navy, which means that the buoy belonged to a foreign vessel.

After the buoy was noticed, no one decided to send a rescue boat to retrieve such weighty evidence of a foreign submarine’s presence at the site. Apparently, people were afraid of taking responsibility for unauthorized action. While they were contacting Moscow, the “stranger” returned the buoy to its original place and left for neutral waters without a stir.

The entire story of the Kursk sinking seemingly developed as follows. Specialists in hydro-acoustics on the submarine, which was preparing to launch a torpedo, suddenly heard a noise made by the screw propeller of an alien submarine, advancing directly toward the Kursk. The alien submarine was approaching quickly, and in order to avoid an inevitable collision the midshipman at the Kursk’s controls was ordered to “dive over”. However, the depth wasn’t great enough – a depth of 100 meters appeared to be insufficient for a 154-meter vessel weighing 20,000 tons. The Kursk’s inertia and speed, which could reach 50 kilometers per hour, together with an angle of 45 degrees, made a collision with the granite floor of the Barents Sea inevitable.

The consequences of this collision are well-known: two dozen torpedoes on the Kursk wrecked the plating of the light and heavy hulls, broke the partitions between the third and fourth compartments…

The USS Memphis or Toledo, or the HMS Splendid, was probably seriously damaged as well. An underwater explosion as strong as that on Kursk is equivalent to dozens of depth-charges. It could have failed to breach the hull of the “alien” submarine, but it is not ruled out that the resonance of the explosion wrecked some equipment inside the submarine, disrupted its life-support systems, injured or killed some of its crewmembers… All of this forced the foreigner to lie on the seabed, eject an emergency buoy and contact its command via radio for further instructions. This was the buoy, according to our experts, which the crewmembers of the cruiser Petr Velikii could see.

It is believed that damage inside the foreign submarine was not fatal. After examining the compartments and repairing the most important damage, the crew decided to leave for the nearest friendly port. It is not ruled out that a photo of the Norwegian seaport Bergen, having the USS Memphis on it, made by the Russian reconnaissance satellite on August 19, 2000 and published by the Versiya newspaper proves this conjecture.

The submarine had no external damage. No one knows what happened inside. However, it seems that someone does. As Norwegian retired admiral Einar Skorgen stated in an interview, something was wrong with the Memphis.

President Bill Clinton phoned President Vladimir Putin the day after the Kursk disaster. Later on, CIA Director James Woolsey flew to Moscow. The topics they discussed have been kept secret thus far. One thing is clear: the silence surrounding the real reasons for the Kursk sinking suits everyone at present – the design bureaus and industrial enterprises (they will not be blamed for construction flaws in the submarine), the naval command (no one, including the military prosecutor general’s office, has yet provided convincing evidence that whoever was responsible for the lethal turn made by Kursk was allowed to escape; nor, more importantly, that commanders failed to take all necessary measures to rescue any survivors), the federal government (it has spent big money on finding out facts it was aware of long ago). Strange as it may seem, the silence also suits the nation whose submarine managed to leave the scene after a major disaster (innocent until proven guilty).

None of these people have an interest in seeing the truth emerge.

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