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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"The Russian navy still insist that the Kursk was sunk when it was rammed by a NATO submarine."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 15:42 GMT
Kursk body search abandoned
Regalia rig at scene of kursk operation
The oil rig Regalia has already left the scene
The mission to retrieve bodies from the sunken Russian submarine Kursk has been abandoned.

Faced with severe weather in the Barents Sea and treacherous conditions inside the submarine, mission commanders decided on Tuesday that they could do no more.

We have reached a decision to end all operations inside the boat

Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky
The 18-day mission recovered the bodies of only 12 of the 118 men who died when the Kursk sank in August.

Divers have now embarked on a final mission to study the outside of the vessel, ahead of plans to try raising it next year.

"We have reached a decision to end all operations inside the boat. Divers will not go there again," said Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky.

The job is completed

Halliburton spokesman Birger Haraldseid
The Norwegian oil platform Regalia, from which the operation had been run, has left the scene, said its US owners Halliburton.

"Regalia left around 1200 local time (0900GMT)," said Birger Haraldseid of Halliburton's Norwegian arm.

"The job is completed," he told Reuters.

Earlier, Mr Navrotsky said divers who had managed to get into the submarine's fourth compartment had been forced back after only two metres.

A planned attempt to reach section five had been abandoned before it even started.

"The divers will not go to the fifth compartment for one simple reason - that it is not possible for divers to get to the place where the bodies of sailors could be," Mr Navrotsky told Russian public television.

Instead, the divers turned their attention to surveying the outside of the sunken vessel, in what Mr Navrotsky said was a separate part of the operation, probably linked to plans to try raising the Kursk next year.

"They will be inspecting the vessel's hull for a few more hours," said Mr Navrotsky.

Click here for the layout of the Kursk

Earlier in the operation, divers reached the ninth compartment - where they discovered that survivors of the initial blasts had taken refuge.

It was a discovery which reignited public anger in Russia, where the authorities had deflected criticism of the tardy rescue attempt by insisting no-one had survived.

By the time the rescue attempt began, some families were saying publicly they would have preferred the sailors to remain where they lay.

But the operation has meant that 12 families were able to give their loved ones proper burials.

Thousands attended a memorial service for the Kursk's victims
The young captain who wrote his final letter as he waited for death or escape in the ninth compartment was buried in St Petersburg as a hero.

The cause of the Kursk tragedy is still under investigation by the Russian authorities, but sources have told the Russian news agency Interfax that a collision with a foreign submarine is still being blamed.

"There is only one problem - to establish 100% which of two Nato member countries this submarine belongs to," the source told Interfax.

The two countries under suspicion - the US and the UK - have both denied any suggestion that a collision took place.

Western experts believe the two catastrophic explosions which sent the vessel plunging to the seabed were triggered on board, either by a fire or by a torpedo malfunction.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Europe
Kursk letter-writer laid to rest
30 Oct 00 | Europe
Divers recover more Kursk bodies
27 Oct 00 | Media reports
Russia laments Kursk tragedy
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