SECRET OF COMPARTMENT NINE

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Vladimir Semiryaga Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 25, 2001, p. 2

Two hypotheses remain: collision with an unidentified object and technical problems with a torpedo

Work of investigators of the Military Prosecutor General’s Office in the Kursk is shrouded in secrecy. On the one hand, there is such a thing as secrets of investigation and officials cannot reveal any related information, much less comment on the course of investigation. On the other hand, the bulk of information is so considerable (almost 1,100 persons were questioned already) that time and work of many specialists are needed for the professional conclusion on the causes of the tragedy.

Northern Fleet Military Prosecutor Vladimir Mulov says that investigators work three shifts 15 men each virtually round the clock. Even so it will take them until late January 2002 to sort out debris in Compartment Three. Explosion in the aft was so powerful that the partition between Compartments One and Two all but smashed everything up to Compartment Four. All massive gear was swept away.

The situation is further complicated that investigators cannot use electric cutting equipment in dealing with metal constructions. The Kursk still has seven Granit missiles, and electricity is not permitted in the submarine for security considerations. Moreover, investigators wear gas masks most of the time.

Seventy-seven submariners were retrieved from the Kursk, 69 of them identified and 65 sent for burial. Twelve bodies more were retrieved in October and November 2000, and there had been 118 men on the Kursk in all. Investigators discovered in Compartments Three and Five recording devices with vital parameters of the technical systems of the submarine recorded. They do not, however, shed light on what caused the catastrophe in the first place because the most important document, the log, has not been found yet. Investigators still hope to retrieve it but chances are diminishing with every passing day. Investigators are also looking for hydroacoustical gear which could detect an object on the surface or a submerged object near the Kursk at the moment of the catastrophe.

Investigation retains two major hypotheses – collision with an unidentified object and problems with a torpedo. The governmental commission favors the collision theory. Its conclusions are known to investigators.

At the same time, investigators of the military prosecutor’s office may be interested in other questions as well. Nobody knows yet why the rescue device failed to dock to Compartment Nine. Investigators make experiments trying to find the answer. Nobody knows why the rescue buoy was not deployed. Its use would have enabled the Navy to determine the location of the submarine much earlier and increased the chances that somebody would have survived.

General public is waiting for conclusions of investigators working in the Kursk. The Navy command would naturally want to minimize its responsibility for the catastrophe. The same can be said of constructors and designers. Even the government would not mind chalking off the death of the Kursk to some foreign submarine. From this angle, the collision hypothesis suits all involved parties. It fails to suit hundreds of young servicemen, warrant officers, and officers who find themselves hostage to admirals’ ambitions, designers’ shortsightedness, and the authorities’ neglect of the problems of the Army and Navy.

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