Eight investigation teams will work on Kursk

Publish date: October 24, 2001

Written by: Viktor Khabarov

The last stage of the Kursk salvage operation, to establish the causes of the submarine’s disaster, has started, the Russian prosecutor general, Vladimir Ustinov, said at the press conference.

According to the prosecutor general, the clarification of the causes of the Kursk disaster will provide some conclusions, which can prevent similar accidents to happen in the future operation of the Russian nuclear submarines.

The investigators are divided into eight groups, each with precise working plans.

“First of all we have to launch and complete the expert evaluation. Our intention is to conduct more than 20 expert evaluations within the investigation plan. The equipment onboard the Kursk will be analysed, and the bodies of the Kursk submariners will be examined. That is why representatives of medico-legal expertise will be engaged in Murmansk. Their main task is to determine the cause of death and identify the bodies. Our hope is that all this will contribute to the cause of the accident,” Vladimir Ustinov said.

The first compartment will be raised in spring
The investigators have already entered the submarine and made the first video taping. “This is a gloomy scene. As a result of the lifting procedure, the entire outer hull of the submarine is impaired. So far, we have only videotaped the deck of the submarine. The next operation is to drain the dock, which is a rather time-consuming procedure, expected to take several days,” the Russian general prosecutor said.

The specialists claim that the dock must be drained slowly, because a sudden decrease in water level may alter the position of the bodies or change the position of devices and other submarine parts that may help to establish the causes of the Kursk accident.

“Currently, we have three main theories of the accident, but I do not want to repeat them here, as everyone is familiar with them…The lack of the first compartment will not hamper our work. We hope it will be raised. We will conduct all the expertise and disclose the exact reason why the first and the second explosions happened on the Kursk,” Vladimir Ustinov said.

The three official theories mentioned by Vladimir Ustinov suggest that the Kursk either collided with an underwater object, hit a mine from the Second World War or that there was an emergency situation in the torpedo section.

“The analyses, which we will conduct on the submarine, will give the answer with 70 to 80 per cent certainty as to why the explosions took place. The final answer will be given after the remaining compartment is raised from the seabed of the Barents Sea. Some parts of the torpedo compartment have been raised just recently, but the whole section is scheduled to be raised by the spring,” the prosecutor general added.

Evaluation of the navy exercises
The general prosecutor promised to give an expertise on the correctness and legality of the official’s actions during the organising and the conducting of the the Northern Fleet exercises, when the Kursk perished. Various versions circulate now about the officials’ faults while preparing, conducting and completing the exercises.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office gave an assignment to some Moscow institutions to carry out the expertise regarding the Russian navy exercises regulations and the orders and instructions of the Northern Fleet commanders during the exercises. When given the expertise, the public will have information about the commanders’ input in the exercises when the disaster happened.

The Northern Fleet commander, Vyacheslav Popov, once again addressed the relatives of the Kursk submariners asking them not to come to Murmansk without personal invitation. He mentioned that identification of the bodies takes a long time and promised to send all the relatives personal invitations.

Vladimir Ustinov said that some genetic tests can take more than one month.


Draining of the Kursk can take several days
On October 23rd, the divers started drilling holes in the fifth and the sixth compartments to measure radiation levels.

The Russian navy chief, Vladimir Kuroedov, said that after draining the submarine in the dock the final protocol on finishing the works will be signed with Mammoet. He also added that on October 22nd, the first persons, who set foot onboard the Kursk were the prosecutor general Vladimir Ustinov, his deputy, himself, and the Northern Fleet commander Vyacheslav Popov.

They managed to walk on the submarines deck until the fourth compartment. Then it was impossible to move as the hull of the submarine is destroyed. The Kursk is full of water mixed with oil and fuel stains.

Vladimir Kuroedov hoped to see the submarine in dry dock not before the evening of October 25th. But entering the submarine will be possible after two to three or even four days. At that moment the investigation by the military prosecutors will start in full scale. Then it will be important to note the last position of the submarine and its devices, the commander added.

Looking for recorder
The investigators gathered from the various Russian regions, not all were selected due to the expected psychological pressure. They have various technical background, some of them spent one year on studying the systems of the nuclear submarines.

Submarines are equipped with recorders, which could give a clue to the causes of the disaster. The recorder is switched on during the key moments onboard the submarine. Vladimir Kuroedov is confident that the recorder was on during the exercises. He also hopes some more messages from the submariners or some documentation from the bridge could be found. The explosion, however, was so strong that the devices from the second compartment were found in the fourth compartment.

Kursk is fully armed
“The submarine is full of armour. It has cruise missiles as well as minor arms. It is unsafe to keep so much armour in the dock,” the Russian prosecutor general said. The submarine has to be disarmed. The first observations showed the missiles can be unloaded in an ordinary way as soon as the water is gone.