CHIEF COMMANDER OF THE RUSSIAN NAVY VLADIMIR KUROEDOV: I AM INDEBTED TO THE KURSK CREW

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Viktor Baranets Komsomolskya Pravda, November 22, 2001, pp. 8-9

Question: Our newspaper has information, which has not been published before…Is it true that shortly after the disaster you went down to the wreck by submarine?

Kuroedov: Yes, it is true. It was soon after the tragedy. I went down together with the Commander of the Northern Fleet and the governor of the Murmansk region. It was important to me not only to see the sunken nuclear powered submarine, but also to understand the psychological condition of submariners of the Northern Fleet, who remained in the ranks.

Question: Can you tell us which submarine you were used?

Kuroedov: Yes, I can. It was Karelia. I wanted to see the eyes of my subordinates in that submarine.

Question: And what did you see in their eyes?

Kuroedov: I am not used to employing lofty words. I saw the eyes of people, who were eager to fulfill their tasks. In spite of everything.

Question: But you saw a big dent in the submarine. Did you see the dent with your own eyes?

Kuroedov: Underwater video facilities were recording this. We spent around 24 hours under water: we approached the place of the tragedy, examined the submarine, laid a wreath, left the region and fired shots. We completed the task, which Kursk did not manage to fulfill. It was important to us that submariners did not feel psychological depression. And we succeeded in it.

Question: During those August days, you were the first to announce in public that there was nearly no chance to save the crew. This statement shocked everyone…

Kuroedov: I said so because I had not seen a single submariner, who would have floated to the surface. It became obvious that a catastrophe had occurred. We just had to understand what had happened…A dent in a side – after a collision with what?

Question: Do you know what caused the disaster?

Kuroedov: I would answer as follows: I am indebted to the dead submariners, their families, to all our fleet: I have to find out the cause of the tragedy. Even if so much time has passed already, I have not discovered the truth yet. There are facts, but we have to prove them. There is a lot of work here. I have a version of my own, but being a member of the State Commission on investigating the reasons for the submarine disaster, I would not like to announce them prematurely. There is a subtle ethical point here, which you should understand… Especially since the investigation is in progress, and dozens of experts are working their best.

Question: Let us go back to the aforementioned dent. In your first comments you stressed the importance of this dent. Did you have proves or suppositions about a collision with an unknown vessel?

Kuroedov: Suppositions.

Question: Could it be that the submarine simply moored to something?

Kuroedov: No, the dent would be in a different place if it just moored awkwardly.

Question: As far as I know, a submarine has special facilities for mooring. Am I right? And the dent is lower than the usual place?

Kuroedov: You are absolutely right. It is true.

Question: Do you know the results of the analysis of material, which was taken by experts from this dent?

Kuroedov: Not yet. The work is in progress.

Question: What can you say about a statement, uttered by Commander of the Northern Fleet Admiral Popov: our soundmen detected some noise near the Kursk submarine, which is characteristic for a foreign submarine trying to go away or repairing. Do you bear it in mind while thinking of the versions?

Kuroedov: Yes, we do.

Question: But can it be an indirect sign of a collision?

Kuroedov: I am not the first to say that the version of a collision has not been abandoned.

Question: Why did Americans and Englishmen not allow our experts to examine their submarines, which were present in the Barents Sea during the exercise?

Kuroedov: They explained it, as you remember.

Question: Yes, they did. But I am interested in the opinon of Mr. Kuroedov.

Kuroedov: Submarine activities of these states are secret. This has always been like this. That is why we have to look for another way out of the situation. We suggest signing an agreement on submarine activities. We have already worked out a draft agreement. Foreigners have reacted to it without enthusiasm.

Question: Among unofficial versions there is the following one: The Kursk was wrecked by the vessels Peter The Great or Admiral Kuznetsov.

Kuroedov: We have checked this and this is not true.

Question: According to media, crews of these vessels were replaced, one of the commanders: dismissed…

Kuroedov: This is very far from being true.

Question: When you received information about these ships, did you demand reports?

Kuroedov: Of course. But the answer became clear to me the moment I saw the locations of the ships on a map. It was obvious that this could not have happened.

Question: They say, original working maps of the Northern Fleet exercise were quickly altered…

Kuroedov: I can say only one thing: everything is in the Public Prosecutor’s Office. They are investigating it.

Question: And are the maps real? Are the maps genuine?

Kuroedov: Everything is real.

WHY DID A TORPEDO BURST IN THE FIRST COMPARTMENT?

Question: Do you still consider the version of a bomb left after the WW II grave?

Kuroedov: I have not discarded it yet. You see, when this version is adjusted to the Kursk disaster, it is wrong. It could precede the catastrophe. It exerted some influence on armory and then…I have recently said that the submarine was sunk because of a torpedo, to my mind.

Question: Do you think that the torpedo was defective?

Kuroedov: The torpedo was in a good condition. I think so. Its intactness was proved by documents.

Question: Which documents?

Kuroedov: Documents of the plant where the torpedo was made.

Question: The torpedo was intact. But what then? Human factor? Technical factor?

Kuroedov: There is no human factor in this torpedo. Automats work there. There might be some kind of technical factor. But we have to get to the truth.

Question: You do not want to say what you mean by ‘technical factor”?

Kuroedov: Not yet. This is a matter of the investigation.

Question: Will the nose part of the submarine be lifted to the surface?

Kuroedov: Of course, the task has been set for the Northern Fleet.

Question: When can it take place?

Kuroedov: Next year.

Question: Will it help to establish the truth?

Kuroedov: By all means.

Question: How close will we manage to get at the truth, in your opinion? At least in percentage?

Kuroedov: I do not know.

EXERCISE IN SHALLOW WATER – NORM OR ANOMALY?

Question: Do you think that the Northern Fleet Staff chose the place for the exercise correctly?

Kuroedov: Yes, they did.

Question: But the length of the submarine is 154 meter. And the depth of the sea in that region is 80 to 110 meter. It might have touched the bottom of the sea even by a minor heeling. Why do you think that this is normal?

Kuroedov: Because a submarine can navigate at a depth of zero to 600 m.

Question: Did the tasks of Kursk for the exercise not contradict instructions, directions, and service regulations?

Kuroedov: They did not contradict anything.

Question: Are you familiar with the documents, which cover the latest reports of the submarine commander Lyachin?

Kuroedov: Ordinary working documents.

Question: Do they contain some report, which might foreshadow the impending disaster?

Kuroedov: No. Everything went in a normal regime. If we take into consideration these documents, it does not give us any hints for the cause of the disaster. Everything happened unexpectedly.

Question: Did they find any documents on board the submarine, which shed light on what had caused the Kursk disaster?

Kuroedov: This is a question for the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

18 ATTEMPTS TO JOIN THE SUBMARINE WERE IN VAIN

Question: Was it possible to save the submarine by our own forces?

Kuroedov: If the catastrophe was not so grave.

Question: Do you think that the Northern Fleet had been well equipped with saving facilities?

Kuroedov: Yes, I do. I thought so and still think so. And I told people that we had fulfilled our task. But the effectiveness was reduced to zero by disastrous condition of the submarine. The very access-way to the escape hatch was defected. That is why 18 attempts to dock it did not succeed. And they could not succeed. We made sure of it only when we saw the submarine in the dock. What can we see through tears…

Question: Did you get to know anything principally new about the reasons for the submarine disaster while you were in the dock?

Kuroedov: No, the commission gathered in the dock and ascertained the aforementioned three versions.

Question: Can you say that the Russian media received 100% objective information from the navy staff?

Kuroedov: We did not have objective information at first wither. I mean the top-ranking officials of the Navy, the Northern Fleet and command posts.

Question: What is the major lesson that the Kursk disaster taught us?

Kuroedov: The most important lesson for the Northern Fleet is to secure people’s safety.

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