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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"This whole operation is about more than just recovering the wreckage of the kursk"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"This is certainly a controversial operation"
 real 56k

Ivor Kurdik of the environmental group Bellona
"What are they going to do with the submarine once it's in the dry dock?"
 real 28k

Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
No live weapons found on Kursk
Kursk wreckage
The next step is to cut off the first compartment
The international team of engineers trying to raise the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk has found no unexploded ammunition in the vessel's first compartment, a Russian Navy spokesman said.

It was initially feared that the front compartment could contain unexploded torpedoes.

The section, which was completely destroyed in the explosion that sank the submarine, will be cut off from the vessel and left at the bottom of the sea.

Map of the area
The high-tech Mayo diving support ship, which is leading the operation, arrived at the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on Thursday to change crews and load robot cutting equipment to remove the compartment, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

The ship, with its team of deep-sea divers, will return to the site of the wreck within 12 hours, the navy spokesman said.

The Kursk sank on 12 August 2000, during a training exercise in the Barents Sea off northern Russia, killing all 118 crew members.

Progress as scheduled

After the first compartment's removal, scheduled tentatively for 8 August, Russian and foreign divers will drill holes in the hull and attach steel cables to lift the vessel.

The cables will be attached to 26 hydraulic cranes anchored to a giant pontoon, which will be towed to Murmansk.

"Cleaning the first section (of the Kursk) has been completed and work is set to begin on cutting the first section from the vessel," Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov was quoted as saying by an official Kursk website.

"We don't see any circumstances at the moment that could force us to change our timescales or the aim of the operation," he said, reiterating Russia's aim to have the Kursk ready for lifting by 10 September.

Diving support vessel Mayo
The Mayo is in Norway to change crews and load robot cutting equipment
The operation is one of the most ambitious salvage missions ever attempted, and environmentalists are warning that the Kursk's nuclear reactors and weapons systems could pose major hazards.

Fears of future radioactive contamination of the Barents Sea are among the reasons for raising the wreck.

But some experts warn that the very act of moving it could trigger a catastrophic failure in the two reactors.

Click here to see how the Kursk will be raised

Promise to relatives

President Putin was widely criticised for not immediately interrupting his holiday when the submarine sank.

Mr Putin told a news conference at the Kremlin on Wednesday that "from a PR point of view" he should have returned to Moscow sooner.

But he added that such a move would not have aided the rescue effort.

"Even if in the very first second... we had appealed to our foreign colleagues, help would still have come too late," he said.

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See also:

18 Jul 01 | Europe
Risky Kursk salvage set to start
17 Jul 01 | Europe
Kursk gets radiation all-clear
17 Jul 01 | Europe
Salvage team 'well prepared'
06 Jul 01 | Scotland
Kursk salvage team sets sail
04 Jul 01 | Scotland
Russian media row over Kursk
25 May 01 | Europe
Russia opens Kursk salvage site
15 May 01 | Europe
Kursk salvage hit by cash hitch
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