OFFICIAL: Kursk to be raised by Sept. 20

Monday, May 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ A top Russian official said Monday that the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk would be raised in a three-month operation that will be finished by Sept. 20, Russian news agencies reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the commission investigating the Kursk tragedy, said that an agreement would be signed between Russia and the Dutch and Norwegian firms taking part in the lifting operation on May 20 in St. Petersburg.

The Kursk was one of the Russian Naval Fleet's most modern nuclear submarines. It exploded and sank during maneuvers in the Barents Sea last summer, killing all 118 crewmen.

The government has not released any official explanation of the cause. Most foreign experts say it was most likely was an internal malfunction, such as a torpedo misfiring, that caused an explosion in a forward compartment. However, the government has not officially ruled out the theory that the Kursk collided with another vessel, possibly a foreign submarine.

The Russian government is supposed to share the cost, estimated at $70 million, with the Kursk Foundation, an international fund-raising group.

The ITAR-Tass news agency, citing sources, said that the foreign firms would help lift all but the first compartment of the submarine, which was most heavily damaged. Only Russians would take part in lifting the first compartment.

Klebanov said earlier this year that the submarine's mangled torpedo compartment would be cut away from the vessel and left on the sea floor, in order to minimize the possibility of further explosions.

The plan to lift the Kursk has provoked controversy in Russia. Some of the crewmen's families have said they would prefer to follow the naval tradition of burying their dead at sea.