THE SQUALL IS TO BE BLAMED

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Grigori Punanov Izvestia (Moscow issue), October 1, 2001, p. 1

The Kursk operation may be postponed. Forever.

Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov flew down to Murmansk to supervise the lifting phase of the salvage operation in the Barents Sea. Scheduled for October 1, the lifting phase is postponed again. The work in the Barents Sea was suspended yesterday by foul weather. Mammoet executives say that they need three or four days of relative calm to complete the operation. Insiders in Moscow doubt that the Kursk will ever be lifted.

Sources close to the Navy Main Command do not rule out the possibility that the whole operation in the Barents Sea is but a colossal sham. They are of the opinion that what is taking place in the Barents Sea may be a global show with a planned lack of a happy end. The eventual fiasco will be presented in such a manner that there will be nobody to blame. The failure of the operation will be chalked off on previously unsuspected insurmountable difficulties.

Nobody knows even know why the Russian government preferred the Dutch Mammoet, a company that had never been involved in such projects before, to the Norwegian Halliburton. Our sources who insist on absolute anonymity say that the Norwegians did not give any guarantees to Moscow and that is why the decision was made in Mammoet’s favor. There is the widespread opinion that the contract with the Halliburton was not signed because the Norwegians understood that lifting the Kursk in autumn 2001 was a sheer impossibility. Unlike their Halliburton rivals, Mammoet executives promised that the submarine would be lifted to the surface in line with President Putin’s public promises.

Specialists have been skeptical of the plans of the Design Bureau Rubin and Mammoet from the very beginning. This particular method was tried only once. It was a failure. Several years ago the Rubin thus tried to salvage the rescue capsule from the Komsomolets submarine. The operation was a fiasco.

Experts say that the Mammoet and the Rubin have not been very logical in their actions. The initial decision was to cut off the first compartment and lift the submarine without it. The missiles and torpedoes that might detonate were referred to as a problem. Shortly afterwards it dawned on organizers of the operation that the arsenals might detonate during the course of the cutting. The Navy command then announced that there were no torpedoes or missiles in the first compartment. Why then cut it off?

Submariners assumed several weeks ago that the authorities had set out to destroy all traces that might explain the tragedy and thus cut off the first compartment. Even now nobody can say for sure whether or not the compartment has been cut off. If not, will the cords be adequate? They are supposed to be used to lift the submarine sans the first compartment.

Specialists involved in the operation are of the opinion that the barge Giant-4 is too late. Weather reports predicted foul weather in the Barents Sea in late September. Why was not the work initiated before that is anybody’s guess?

The Kursk operation has already cost Russia almost $130 million, even though the cost was initially estimated at $60-70 million. It does not take a genius to predict that if the efforts of the Mammoet and the Rubin fail, the Kursk will be left on the seabed for years to come. Russia is unlikely to find this sort of money to pour into the Barents Sea again in the foreseeable future.

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