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BBC Russian Affairs Analyst, Stephen Dalziel
"The Russian navy may be interested in more than just bodies in the third compartment"
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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 17:09 GMT
Russia shifts Kursk recovery focus
Kursk (undated file photo)
The fore of the Kursk was thought to have been too badly damaged
Divers have cut a new hole closer to the front end of the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, in the hope of recovering the remains of more of the 118 sailors who died in the disaster, according to Navy spokesmen.

The operation is now concentrating on the third section of the submarine, previously thought to have been too badly damaged by explosions to yield any bodies.

At least 12 bodies have so far been brought up from the rear of the ship, in section nine, which has now been sealed off.

Naval spokesman Igor Dygalo said divers were unable to proceed further in section nine as all the remaining passages were narrower than the 70cm required to ensure divers' safety.

It was initially thought that the first five sections were gutted and any crew members were vaporised by two explosions, which occurred in the first or second section.

It has not yet been explained why naval officials now believe some bodies may have survived in section three.

The compartment contains the vessel's surfacing chamber - the main device for rescuing the crew in an emergency situation.

Another spokesman, Vladimir Navrotsky, denied the shift in focus meant the search for bodies had ended and one for sensitive equipment had begun.

New focus

BBC Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel says the airtight doors between each of the submarine's nine compartments may have been tightly shut, providing some protection from the blasts.

On board the Nowegian platform Regalia which is leading the search
On board the Nowegian platform Regalia which is leading the search
However, naval expert Mikhail Guzun said the new search meant divers had given up looking for bodies.

"It goes without saying that first of all they are looking for documents and secret equipment... that should not fall into foreigners' hands," the retired officer said.

Click here for the layout of the Kursk

Any crewmembers in section three would have quickly drowned, unlike those from sections six, seven, eight and nine.

A note found on one of the first four bodies recovered suggested that 23 sailors from those sections had survived in section nine for at least an hour an a half after the disaster.

The divers will continue their work, 108 metres (335ft) beneath the surface, as long as there is no a risk of damaged equipment tearing their diving suits.

Our analyst says the Navy does not want the Kursk to claim any more lives.

Identification and burial

The weather at the disaster site has started to improve, lifting hopes that the remains of eight sailors could be flown from the recovery ship to the mainland for identification and burial.

Mourners gathered on Sunday to remember the 118 crew
The first four bodies were brought to shore for a memorial ceremony on Sunday, which was attended by thousands of people in the northern port of Severomorsk.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov promised to discover the cause of the explosions, and told the crew's relatives that they would be the first to know.

Injuries to some of the bodies so far brought to the surface suggest a serious fire swept through the Kursk, and that crewmembers were pelted with flying debris during the blasts.

Russian officials have alleged that the blasts were set off by a collision with another vessel ship during exercises. Others theories suggest the most likely cause was a torpedo exploding in its tube.


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27 Oct 00 | Media reports
Russia laments Kursk tragedy
29 Oct 00 | Europe
Thousands honour Kursk victims
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