Vladimir Borisov Argumenty i Fakty, No. 45, November 7, 2001, p. 6

It can’t be ruled out that the government will now attempt to forget all about the Kursk, and the true cause of the disaster will never be known to the public. Although some details are much clearer now, the cause of the initial explosion remains unknown

President Vladimir Putin has kept the promise he made a year ago: to raise the Kursk submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea. It can’t be ruled out that the government will now attempt to forget all about the Kursk, and the true cause of the disaster will never be known to the public. Meanwhile, Russia has spent around $160 million on this operation, according to indirect sources.

We have every reason to think that the Kursk crew knew they were in trouble. The emergency situation probably preceded the first explosion, and Captain Liachin decided to send all crew members who were not immediately occupied back to the rear sections of the submarine. That would explain why the bodies of some officers based in the second compartment have been found in the ninth compartment. It would also explain why crew members in the fourth compartment were wearing special gas-masks. All this couldn’t have been done in total darkness within 135 seconds.

Death caught the crew in various locations around the submarine.

Investigators are compiling descriptions of the condition of the bodies and the state of each compartment. Their notes record every minor detail which could be of any assistance to the investigation. We already have every reason to state that the Kursk disaster struck when the submarine was at a depth of no more than 25-30 meters. The evidence of this is its raised periscope, which should have been automatically lowered when the sub descended below 30 meters. It must be added that the Kursk’s controls were set to “descend”.

The black boxes are another matter. According to specialists, a nuclear-powered submarine carries two of these. They record the condition of the nuclear reactor and certain other devices. But they don’t record the conversations of the crew.

Despite statements by Navy commanders that no outsiders would see the damaged submarine, pictures of its mutilated bow have been shown on television around the world. Submarine specialists now understand a great deal, even without the official conclusions of the government commission. After such an explosion, the first compartment would simply have been destroyed. Conclusion: at the bottom of the Barents Sea, divers didn’t cut off the first compartment – just the torn fragments of its outer hull.

The Navy is also very displeased that prosecutors allowed TV cameras to film Granit missiles being taken off the Kursk. First of all, these missiles are top secret; so showing them on television is equivalent to revealing state secrets. But that’s only half the problem. Foreign defense analysts will be able to see from that footage that the Kursk’s missile bays were carrying a newer, even more secret model of Granit missiles.

More on the missiles – or rather, their contents. The Kursk was carrying 24 missiles, of which two were training models. The warheads of the others probably contained explosives equivalent to 300 kilograms of TNT each. Neither can it be ruled out that one or two of the Kursk’s missiles might have been armed with nuclear warheads of up to 500 kilotons. Although the Navy’s official statements say there were no nuclear weapons on board, we may assume this is bending the truth. Such warheads can remain underwater for no longer than two years, after which they begin to “leak”.

It is quite possible that after the Kursk sank, the president was immediately informed that a nuclear warhead was on board. Then he made the decision to raise the Kursk the following year – to avoid an environmental disaster by removing the warhead before it could deteriorate.

As for theories about the cause of the Kursk disaster, the investigation team is now down to basically one theory: a torpedo explosion. But the primary cause of that torpedo explosion remains unknown. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov says the answer lies in the first compartment, which remains at the bottom of the Barents Sea. But those with some experience in this field are sure that the answer is somewhere further still: in the reports of the government commission, which can keep secrets much better than the sea.