- LONDON - A former British
military official has backed a sensational claim that the Russian nuclear
submarine, the Kursk, was torpedoed by US forces in August 2000.
- An official inquest concluded that the disaster - in
which all 118 crew drowned in the Barents Sea, 135km off the Russian coast
- was caused by an accidental explosion of an onboard torpedo.
- But Maurice Stradling, a former torpedo engineer and
a key figure in the original investigation, believes a new French documentary,
The Kursk: A Submarine in Troubled Waters, should change world opinion
on the sinking.
- "On the balance of probabilities, the Kursk was
sunk by an American MK-48 torpedo," said Mr Stradling, formerly a
senior member of the British Defence Ministry.
- BBC editor Nick Fraser called the claim a "pack
of lies" and has refused to air the documentary, which attracted a
record audience of more than 4 million when it screened on French TV.
- The BBC used Mr Stradling as its main authority for a
documentary it made in 2001 - What Sank the Kursk?, in which Mr Stradling
theorised that the sinking was caused by the malfunctioning of an old-fashioned
- Mr Stradling, who also appears in the new French documentary,
said: "At the time (2001), that was a perfectly reasonable film, given
the facts as we knew them then, when there seemed to be no third-party
- The new explanation for the Kursk's downing is based
on film footage of a hole in the side of the vessel, and evidence placing
US submarines in the area at the time it was sunk.
- The French film shows stills of the Kursk raised above
the water after being salvaged, with a precise circular hole in its right
side. The hole clearly bends inwards, consistent with an attack from outside
- A US military source in the documentary declares the
hole to be the trademark evidence of an American MK-48 torpedo, which is
made to melt cleanly through steel sheet due to a mechanism at its tip
that combusts copper.
- The film suggests the attack happened while two US submarines,
the Toledo and Memphis, were shadowing the Kursk in a routine military
- The documentary says the Toledo accidentally collided
with the Kursk, at which point the Russian submarine opened its torpedo
tubes, leading to an attack from the Memphis, which was protecting the
damaged Toledo while it retreated.
- The cause of the sinking was covered up at the time in
an act of diplomacy between then US presidents Bill Clinton and Russian
President Vladimir Putin - a deal that included the cancellation of $US10
billion ($12.5 billion) of Russian debt, the film states.
- After the documentary received its only public broadcast
in Britain, some claimed the Russian navy had drilled the hole and fed
doctored footage to the film-makers to create a false impression.