- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

MURMANSK, Russia The long-delayed operation to raise the sunken Kursk submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea was accomplished yesterday, to the almost palpable relief of the Russian navy.

The lifting of the Kursk began after salvage experts succeeded in wresting the 20,000-ton vessel from a bed of silt 370 feet under water, said Lars Walder, spokesman for the Dutch contractors Mammoet-Smit.

Fifteen hours later, it was all over or, at any rate, the second phase of the complex salvage operation begun, with the Giant-4 barge operated by Mammoet-Smit towing the crippled sub toward dry dock on the Kola Peninsula.

"It was necessary to use a force of 9,000 tons to raise the wreck from the deep," Mr. Walder told reporters.

The vessel sank Aug. 12, 2000, with the loss of all 118 crew aboard.

On-off preparations to raise the hull have taken almost three months because of bad weather in the Arctic Circle, and salvage workers have been racing against time as the Arctic winter closed in and threatened to postpone the whole operation until next year.

Twenty-six steel cables, each weighing 22 tons, that were lowered from the Giant-4 barge raised the nuclear sub to the point where it could be towed to shore, said Vice Adm. Mikhail Motsak, head of Russia's Northern Fleet.

Adm. Motsak was already in a celebratory mood at the success of the lifting phase, telling journalists, "The emotion was very great when we heard this news, because it means this enormous labor by divers, sailors and technical experts has not been in vain."

"Everything is going according to plan. The freeing of the Kursk from the seabed was even easier than we had thought it would be," said Vladimir Navrotsky, a Northern Fleet spokesman. "The only thing we could fear is the bad weather. According to the weather forecast, we should expect a downturn on Tuesday."

The Kursk, Russia's most modern nuclear-powered sub-marine, sank after a series of explosions on board that have still not been explained.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the vessel raised after promising the seamen's families that their relatives' bodies would be recovered.

Officials hope the $65 million salvage operation will cast some light on the accident that sent the Kursk to the bottom of the sea.

Although the Russian navy says risks are negligible, the presence of 18 torpedoes, 22 Granit missiles and two nuclear reactors inside the sunken vessel has given environmentalist groups and authorities serious reasons to worry.

The Kursk's bow the most damaged part of the submarine, which holds its torpedoes is to remain under the sea at least until next year.

The raising of the Kursk was originally scheduled for Sept. 15, but the operation was repeatedly delayed by technical problems and bad weather.

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