German Daily Says Russian
Missile Hit Kursk -
Russia Denies It
BERLIN (Reuters) - A guided missile from a Russian warship sank the Russian submarine Kursk, killing all 118 crew on board, a German newspaper reported on Friday, citing a report from the FSB domestic intelligence service in Moscow.
The report, which the Berliner Zeitung daily said was handed to President Vladimir Putin on August 31, said the "Granit" missile had been fired by the Russian cruiser Peter the Great as part of an exercise that had been going on since August 2.
There was no immediate comment from the FSB in Moscow on the Berliner Zeitung report. It was not clear whether the FSB investigation was linked to an inquiry conducted by the government and navy under Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov.
The report cited in the newspaper, put together by a special investigating team under FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, said shortly after the missile was fired two underwater explosions were registered, both visible from the bridge of the Peter the Great -- flagship of the Russian Northern Fleet.
Those on the ship apparently assumed that the second blast was part of the manoeuvre. It was established only later that the Kursk's position coincided with where the explosions were seen.
The newspaper said that both the head of the Northern Fleet, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, and its chief of staff, Vice-Admiral Mikhail Motsak, had been on board the warship on August 12, the day of the accident.
Russian officials have suggested that a collision with a foreign submarine was the most likely cause of the disaster. A senior Russian general reiterated this in an interview in the latest edition of the weekly military newspaper Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye.
"Statistics point to the likelihood of such a collision,"
Colonel-General Valery Manilov said, noting there had been 11 recorded incidents of this kind between 1967 and 2000, including eight in Northern Fleet waters.
The German newspaper said the navy had been simulating a nuclear attack on Russia on August 12 and wanted to test the Granit cruise missile under the most realistic conditions possible. The Granit is called "Shipwreck" by NATO. The same kind of missile was carried aboard the Kursk.
The report did not say why the missile had hit the Kursk, but the newspaper said it could have been an error in a new weapons system or that the Kursk was not recognised as a friendly craft.
Citing unnamed sources in Moscow, the newspaper said that Putin wanted to pursue the report after his return from the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York because of its sensitive nature.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that acoustic information gathered by a U.S. submarine on August 12 showed that a major explosion believed to be equivalent to between one and five tons of TNT explosive had ripped through the Kursk.
The explosion led to the almost immediate flooding of the ship, a Defence Department spokesman said.
The spokesman denied there had been a collision with an American or allied submarine or other vessel and said there was still some speculation among American naval experts that a new type of liquid-fuel torpedo was aboard the Kursk. _____
Russia Denies Missile Hit Kursk
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia denied a German newspaper's report on Friday that the submarine Kursk, which sank last month killing all 118 crew on board, had been struck by a guided cruise missile fired by a Russian warship.
The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that Russia's FSB domestic intelligence service had concluded that the cruiser Peter the Great had fired a ``Granit'' cruise missile which sank the Kursk during training exercises.
But Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who led Russia's official investigation into the Kursk disaster, said there was no shooting under way at the time the Kursk sank, and no live ammunition was used at all during training.
Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo also said no live warheads were used, and the two ships would not have been in the same area.
Klebanov and Dygalo were both responding to Interfax news agency on the German report.
There have been previous reports that a Russian missile might have struck the Kursk. Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, head of the Baltic Fleet, which was not involved in the training exercises or the Kursk rescue, said in a television interview last Sunday this was one of the scenarios under investigation.
But the Berliner Zeitung was the first to report that this scenario had been confirmed by Russia's FSB itself, Gisbert Mrozek, the journalist who wrote the story, told Reuters.
``The source for this story is, as one traditionally says here in Moscow, from 'usually well-informed circles'. That means it is a source I consider solid,'' he said.
``We tried to check the story as best we could, we have checked it, and we have also put the views of other officials in the article...But the FSB report, which (President Vladimir) Putin was handed on August 31, corresponds to the truth.''
The FSB press office said it had no immediate comment.
The FSB's report to Putin cited by the newspaper said that the Peter the Great, flagship of the Northern fleet, fired the Granit missile, and shortly afterwards two underwater explosions were detected, both visible from the ship's bridge.
Those on the ship apparently thought the second blast was part of the maneuver. It was established only later that the Kursk's position matched the location of the missile's impact, according to the report as quoted by the newspaper.
The newspaper said that both the head of the Northern Fleet, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, and its chief of staff, Vice-Admiral Mikhail Motsak, had been on board the Peter the Great on August 12, the day of the disaster.
Russian and Western officials now agree that the Kursk sank after two explosions, a small first blast followed by a massive second blast, probably from ordinance on board the Kursk, which tore through the sub's front and killed most crew instantly.
But accounts have varied widely over the likely cause of the smaller first explosion, which would have triggered the deadly second blast. Russian officials say the first impact may have been caused by a collision with a foreign vessel, or even with a mine left over from World War Two.
Western countries have strongly denied that any of their ships collided with the Kursk.
Yegorov, in his interview with RTR state television last Sunday, said that if a Russian missile hit the Kursk during a training exercise, ``it would have had the effect of a mere mosquito bite on such a submarine, even less,'' as the missile would not have carried a live warhead.
But he said such a minor impact could still have caused a detonation of a torpedo on board the Kursk.
``If a strike occurs, conditions are created for detonation. Detonation is possible,'' he said.
(Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Berlin)

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