Anatoly Shvedov Izvestia, December 3, 2001, p. 1

Resignations in the Northern Fleet take place

Last Saturday, President Vladimir Putin listened to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov’s report on investigation of the Kursk catastrophe. Upon hearing it, Putin asked Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, and Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov “to formulate the proposals on staff decisions and first and foremost on the system of measures improving the quality of the Navy in general.” Twelve supreme officers of the Northern Fleet were fired three hours later “for serious flaws in organization of service.” Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov and Chief-of-Staff Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak were demoted. Public opinion directly ascribes the purge to the Kursk catastrophe. It means that the authorities have drawn conclusions on what caused the catastrophe, but the general public is being kept in the dark.

The president said, and Kvashnin repeated it afterwards, however, differently, “We cannot draw the conclusion on the cause-and-effect link between what the officials did and the consequences.” The list of the dismissed officers, however, does not leave any doubts as to the Kursk involvement. Almost all officers that were dismissed were directly involved with the submarine, the organization of the exercise, or the rescue services of the fleet. Commanders and their senior deputies of all forces of the Fleet were dismissed (the flotilla and the division). The Chief of the combat training directorate of the Fleet was dismissed as well. Even the chief of the torpedo base of the Fleet, from which the faulty torpedo must have come, was dismissed.

“All hypotheses are being worked on, including the one concerning a collision with an unidentified underwater object,” Putin said at the meeting with Ustinov. “We should admit, however, that we do not have any objective evidence confirming this hypothesis.” According to what information the Izvestia has compiled, one of the key factors the Prosecutor General’s Office formed its conclusions on, was the conclusion of some expert whose identity is not revealed. “Staff solutions” were made precisely on the basis of his findings. The Kursk was not the motive. According to some reports, officers are not blamed for the improper organization of the maneuvers of the Northern Fleet where the Kursk died.

During the catastrophe and the rescue operation in August 2000, the headquarters displayed utter inability to analyze the situation and forward proper information to the fleet commander. The second underwater target discovered by the Pyotr Veliky, the same “unidentified underwater object”, disappeared without a trace. At the same time, using a buoy or classifying and tracking an object is elementary, that is something any fleet should be able to accomplish. The fleet command demonstrated the habit of being used to constant failures of equipment: this is the only explanation of idleness during the 12 hours of the absence of radio contact with the Kursk. It goes without saying that with the state of affairs like this; everyone is playing with fire.

“When in Murmansk, Ustinov promised to go public with the conclusions of the experts made on the Kursk,” says Leonid Troshin, Chief of the Directorate of Information of the Prosecutor General’s Office. “I do not doubt that it will be done.”

Ships of the Russian Navy were essentially moored between 1990 and 2000. It follows that demanding an accident-free sailing from the sailors anchored to the land for a decade is at least naive. Russia does not have a national program for Navy development. The situation being what it is, it is wrong to disregard the opinion of some staff officers that the leadership of the General Staff dismissed the men capable of thwarting the plans of Armed Forces reorganization. One of the hypotheses that exist states that Russia does not need an ocean-faring Navy. In its time, even the Soviet Union financed its ocean-faring Navy with a third of what it really needed.

The guilty parties were found. Hiding the information from the general public, the military is fighting to save face. Using the informational vacuum, politicians promote their own goals. Relatives of the submariners are still waiting to be told the motives of the catastrophe.