NO ADMIRALS WILL BE DISMISSED…

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Elena Milashina Novaya Gazeta, No. 1, January 10, 2002, p. 5

What has been done to avoid a repeat of the Kursk submarine disaster? The new Gepard submarine has old weapons. The majority of officers from Kuroedov’s “punishment list” have been demoted, but are still in the Navy. Two officers have won the fight to retain their positions

Six weeks after the Kursk nuclear submarine was raised, General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov reported on the operation to President Vladimir Putin. The general prosecutor let the president know that he had been audaciously lied to in August 2000.

After the report the president suggested that Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Kuroedov should urgently address the “personnel problem”. Apparently, Kuroedov was prepared for such a suggestion, as he immediately presented “punishment lists”. Moreover, according to our sources in the Cabinet, there were several lists, and it is due to the commander-in-chief that the Navy had an unprecedented number of dismissals in a short period of time.

At Putin’s meetings there were no “dismissals”, the maximum punishment was “discharging with demotion”. Putin could not independently deprive the strongest fleet of the country of 14 military leaders.

On the other hand, Popov and Motsak – who are really to blame for the Kursk disaster – would never agree to demotion, and they resigned.

At present, Vyachelav Popov represents the Murmansk region in the Federation Council, and Mikhail Motsak was offered the position of deputy presidential envoy for the North-Western federal district. Evidently, their civilian positions are no lower than their posts in the Navy.

However, there were at least two really decent officers on Kuroedov’s lists: Oleg Burtsev, commander of the 1st Flotilla, and commander of the Flotilla Headquarters Valery Filatov. Over 30 top officers of the flotilla addressed an open letter to President Putin, in which they condemned such a “badly planned and incompetent decision.” Why did they write the letter to Putin? The point is that the officers consider Kuroedov, who has lately distanced himself from the North Fleet, to have betrayed them.

Of course, the officers exaggerate things. All that has happened since August 2000 – the search and rescue operation, raising the Kursk, dismissals that are formally not connected with the disaster – is the necessary sacrifice to concerned public opinion. Raising Kursk submarine raised the prestige of the nation. The majority of the crew who died have been buried. The guilty were punished, not painfully, but in public. Finally, the cause of the disaster was discovered – a torpedo explosion. Public interest in the issue has fallen, the destroyed Kursk submarine has disappeared from television news.

One more thing: right after the “personnel decision” the president launched another nuclear submarine – the Gepard = and rewarded designers for good work. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation prayed and thought of the Kursk – we are scared.

What has been done to avoid a repeat of the Kursk disaster? So far, only Rubin design bureau Director Igor Spassky insists that submarine weapons are obsolete, like those torpedoes for instance. The new Gepard submarine is equipped with old weapons.

So far, forming a rescue service is only being discussed, but Russia has no money to establish it – the money and the equipment designed for raising the Kursk were given to Dutch company Mammoet. When asked if there is any exact information on how long the Kursk crew remained alive, General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov evasively says that the Kursk’s compartments were filled with water within seven or eight hours. Why so fast if there was no serious damages in the rear compartments? But Kuroedov, and Motsak, and Popov said that there was some tapping heard from inside, even three days after the sinking – have these signals been decoded eighteen months later, or are they still afraid to admit these were SOS signals?

P.S.: The majority of officers from Kuroedov’s list have been demoted, but are still in the Navy. Oleg Burtsev and Valery Filatov have won the fight to retain their positions.

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