Russia To Begin Kursk
Crew Recovery In Four Weeks
MOSCOW, Russia -- The operation to recover the bodies of the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk will begin in four weeks, Russia has announced.
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov also said an attempt will be made to raise the wreck next year because of fears over radiation leaks from the submarine's reactors.
Klebanov said if the Kursk were left at the bottom of the <map.russia.barents.sea.jpgBarents Sea, where it sank last month with the loss of 118 sailors, "the public, and not only ecologists, would remain alarmed."
Speaking on RTR television's weekly news magazine program Zerkalo on Sunday, Klebanov, who is leading the investigation into the cause of the disaster, said that raising the submarine would be an "extremely complicated process," likely to cost $100 million, but that Russia wanted to complete it within a year.
He also gave details of the government's intention to begin an operation to recover the bodies of the Kursk's crew.
"We are going to start this operation between September 28 and 30. I cannot say how much time it will take. For the moment we count on two weeks, three weeks at the maximum," he said.
The Russian company Rubin, which built the submarine and is to organise the recovery operation, has signed a draft agreement with Norwegian oil contractor Stolt Offshore to help complete the mission.
During the recovery operation, estimated to cost between $5 million and $7 million, Klebanov said holes will be cut in the submarine's hull, allowing divers to enter to extract the corpses.
He said the operation would be carried out by teams of three divers, each made up of two Russians and one Norwegian.
Collision not ruled out
The Oscar-class II submarine sank on August 12 during naval exercises and following at least one devastating explosion.
The Russian authorities have always maintained that the reactors were successfully shut down by the crew and that no increases in radiation in the area where it now rests have been reported.
But "public opinion worldwide and in Russia is worried about the issue, and so we are going to extract the reactor," Klebanov said.
While the cause of the accident is not known, Russian officials believe the Kursk collided with another object, possibly a foreign vessel or a Second World War mine, although it is possible that one of the submarine's torpedoes exploded.
Russia's Baltic Fleet commander Vladimir Yegorov, also speaking on the Zerkalo programme, said the possibility of a torpedo explosion "has not been excluded," but repeated the claim that a collision with an unidentified object was the likely cause.
Western defence officials, including those at Nato and in Britain, have strongly denied any suggestion the accident was caused by a collision with a foreign submarine.
Reuters contributed to this report.

This Site Served by TheHostPros