THE LAST SURFACING OF THE KURSK

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Yuri Golotyuk Vremya Novostei, May 15, 2002, p. 4

A Kursk update

Ships of the Special Expedition are leaving Severomorsk for the area where the Kursk rests on the seabed on Wednesday. The expedition was formed by the Northern Fleet for the salvage operation in which elements of the first compartment of the submarine will be lifted. Within a week the ships will meet in latitude 69.40 North and longitude 37.35 East, known all over the world since August 2000. The operation will begin after May 20. This time only the Russian Navy will be involved. The Special Expedition is commanded by Rear Admiral Sergei Simonenko, Northern Fleet Chief-of-Staff.

Last September, the first compartment of the Kursk was separated from the rest of the submarine and left on the seabed. Actually, the first compartment as such does not exist, has not existed since the explosion of torpedoes. Examination of the seabed in the wake of the salvage operation confirmed that seven large fragments of the submarine and a great number of small ones were still on the seabed. Only two of them will be salvaged in this operation: fragments of the torpedo apparatus and acoustic antenna. Northern Fleet headquarters claims that the choice of what is to be salvaged and what not has been made by the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is in charge of the investigation.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said recently that “the final expert examination and decision on the future of the investigation will be made when elements of the first compartment are lifted.”

The whole operation is supposed to take two weeks or so. If the weather deteriorates, the Navy has a leeway and says that the operation may last a month or month and a half.

Well-informed sources claim that the Navy Command corrected the plans of salvage operation to a certain extent. Initial plans drafted by the Design Bureau Rubin stipulated salvage of many more elements.

It stands to reason to assume that the motives of the correction are banal. The Navy does not have the funds needed to salvage the entire first compartment. As a result, the decision was made to salvage the torpedo apparatus (evidence for the Prosecutor General’s Office) and the antenna (for considerations of security, mostly). Forestalling criticism from Russia’s neighbors that some elements will be left on the seabed, Governmental Commission Chairman Ilya Klebanov promised “to safeguard environment by certain conservation jobs on the seabed”. In other words, specialists of the Special Expedition will blow up everything not salvaged.

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