"BLAMING THE TORPEDO IS THE EASY WAY OUT"

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Crime Department Kommersant, July 29, 2002, p. 3

Relatives of Kursk submariners refuse to accept the conclusion of the Prosecutor General’s Office that a faulty torpedo destroyed the submarine.

On Friday, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov announced that all criminal investigations in connection with the Kursk tragedy were closed, because the tragedy was caused by a fire and explosion of a defective training torpedo. Investigators are of the opinion that nobody should be held responsible for that, particularly since Northern Fleet commander and commander-in-chief were already dismissed.

These conclusions shocked relatives of the submariners. “We will not leave it at that! We will use every chance to initiate a new criminal case,” said Nadezhda, mother of enlisted man Aleksei Nekrasov, to a correspondent of the Echo of Moscow radio station. “We will approach the European Court if necessary, but the guilty persons should be identified and prosecuted. Blaming the torpedo is the easiest way out.”

Some relatives claim that they knew that the Kursk was sunk by a torpedo several months ago. They emphasize that we should remember that somebody did not do his job properly when the torpedo was assembled or damaged it in the process of loading. More importantly, somebody failed to come to the submariners’ help when they needed it.

Designers of the torpedo, specialists of the Gidropribor Research Institute, do not think that the training torpedo could sink the Kursk. General Director Stanislav Proshkin says that the Kursk torpedoes were tested. They were dropped from the height of 10 meters on sharp objects, but even that did not leave any marks on the hulls. Proshkin therefore denounces the hypotheses according to which the torpedo was dropped in the process of loading and that the fall damaged it sufficiently to cause a leak of oxygen, which in its turn caused the explosion. According to Proshkin, Gidropribor specialists discovered, experimenting, that the torpedo went off because of a fire. “The hull was heated to the temperature of 500 degrees Centigrade and the torpedo exploded,” Proshkin said.

Officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office and Military Prosecutor General’s Office uphold their own hypothesis: first a leak, then the fire and explosion, which detonated the whole bomb load. They claim to have based this assumption on evidence of the recording devices found in the Kursk.

Military Prosecutor General Alexander Savenkov asked relatives of submariners and their lawyers not to draw hasty conclusions or make comments. “All conclusions should be based on evidence,” he said. Relatives of submariners have not yet begun acquainting themselves with the findings of investigation. They will receive all material this week. When they do, their emotional statements may have some factual basis.

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