RUSSIA shows underwater footage of work on sunken Kursk nuclear submarine

Friday, August 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ Divers using special drills and chains will start slicing off the mangled front section of the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk on Aug. 12, exactly one year after the disaster that destroyed the huge vessel and killed 118 Russian seamen, officials said Thursday.

The Russian Navy released video footage of the underwater preparations to lift the Kursk from the Barents Sea floor next month. The video, shot Aug. 2 and shown on Russian television stations Thursday, showed divers' hands maneuvering outside the stricken submarine and amid a mass of wires and pipes between its inner and outer hulls.

It also showed the process of removing pieces of hull, as well as cables and systems that Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said were in the fifth compartment, which contains the Kursk's nuclear reactors. Russian officials insist there is no risk that the reactors will be damaged in the risky operation to raise the vessel, scheduled for mid-September.

Before the submarine is lifted, divers will cut off the front section, which Russian officials say may contain unexploded torpedoes. That section will be left on the sea floor, though Russian officials say they may raise it later.

Dygalo said divers will start the cutting Aug. 12, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The Kursk plunged to the sea bottom after explosions during exercises on Aug. 12, 2000. All 118 men aboard were killed. A memorial service is to be held on the anniversary Sunday at the Kursk's home base in the port of Vidyayevo.

On Thursday, divers continued cutting holes the Kursk's double hull, to which steel cables will be attached to raise the submarine. The cables will be connected to hydraulic lifting devices anchored to a giant barge, which is to bring the Kursk to the Arctic port of Murmansk.

The cause of the explosions remains unclear. Russian officials say it could have been prompted by a collision with a World War II mine or a Western submarine, though outside experts believe it was likely an internal malfunction.