- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

One year after violent explosions sent the Russian submarine Kursk to the bottom of the sea, killing 118 sailors, a Russian admiral dismissed accusations that a collision with an American submarine was responsible for the disaster.
"It is very unlikely the submarine [Kursk] collided with something in deep waters," said Vice Adm. Sergei Lebedev told reporters at the Russian Embassy in Washington.
Asked if he ruled out Russian accusations last year that the Kursk had hit an American submarine that was monitoring Russian naval exercises in the Barents Sea, Adm. Lebedev said:
"It is unlikely there was a collision with another submarine because of the nature of the submarine [disaster]. Explosions came from within."
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said last November, after heading a government inquiry into the Kursk disaster, that it had collided with another submarine.
Then-Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Russia would soon be able to determine which submarine had hit the Kursk.
That, in turn, prompted a flurry of speculation in the Russian press that an American submarine had sent the Kursk and its sailors to an icy grave.
Russia recently began an attempt to raise the nuclear-powered Kursk from the seabed, about 300 feet down.
The salvage operation seeks to protect the ecology of the Barents Sea from nuclear contamination, determine the cause of the disaster and lay the bodies of the crew to rest, said Igor Neverov, deputy chief of mission at the Russian Embassy.
He announced that Russia is setting up a media center next month in Murmansk, home port of the Russian fleet, to allow reporters to view the operation and ride out to the recovery site.
Adm. Lebedev said the submarine is expected to reach the surface by mid-September.
Photos of the Kursk on the ocean floor after the Aug. 12 tragedy showed a heavily damaged forward section.
Mr. Neverov said Thursday that Russian officials have been investigating three possible causes for the tragedy:
A possible deep sea collision.
A sea mine left over from World War II.
An emergency in the front of the submarine.
Adm. Lebedev said that while the three theories remain under investigation, "I believe the submarine went down because of an explosion in the front section. The reason for this happening will be identified after the submarine is lifted."
The front section of the Kursk will not be raised along with the rest of the ship because it was "almost completely destroyed" and the remaining portions will be cut away, the admiral said.
"After working on the rest, we will work on the front," he said.
Adm. Lebedev also rejected what he called "gossip" to the effect that the government has concealed notes written by sailors who survived the initial blasts that describe how the accident took place.
"It is not true," he said.
Russia has disclosed the contents of two notes found on sailors whose bodies were recovered by divers.
Both were far from the front where the explosions took place.
Among the possible explanations for the explosions is the malfunction of a torpedo, which might have gone off prematurely or become jammed in a torpedo tube and then ignited.
The admiral said that Russia was grateful for expressions of sympathy from Americans, especially those sent to families of the victims by American submariners and their families.
Russia has also proposed creation of a specialized high seas rescue service, using Russian and other naval resources, to assist in future accidents.
The Russians noted that while the Kursk was the fourth Russian nuclear sub to be lost at sea, the United States has also lost two nuclear submarines — the Thresher in 1963 and the Scorpion in 1968.

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