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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Kursk relatives still waiting for answers
Relatives of the Kursk victims one year on
Relatives of the Kursk victms support each other
As the relatives of the victims who died on the Russian nuclear submarine the Kursk gathered for a remembrance ceremony, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt listened to their demands for an explanation of how and why their loved ones died.

This weekend will mark the first anniversary of the tragedy in which 118 men lost their lives on the nuclear submarine.

The relatives laid a wreath at the grave of Viktor Kuznetsov, an officer who died aged just 28. His body was one of the few recovered last year.

Kuznetsov's widow, Svetlana, laid flowers at his grave. She is bringing up their three-year-old son Dima alone.

It's very important to us to know what happened. People should know why the vessel perished, why people died

Svetlana Kuznetsov
Her friend Irina Tsymbal also laid a wreath there. The body of her own husband, Ivan, still lies in the wreckage of the Kursk.

Waiting for news

The two women meet every day to offer each other comfort and advice, and to share anything they hear on the raising of the Kursk.

Both have received new homes from the Russian navy, as compensation for their husbands' death. But what they really want isn't money but answers - to know why and how their husbands died.

"We have to watch the television news to get any information," said Irina. "It's just as it always was. The authorities say to us 'Watch TV and you'll find out everything.'

Kursk-type sub
118 men died inside the submarine
"If they hadn't already recovered some bodies from the Kursk, it would have been better just to leave it. But now I'd really like for there to be somewhere for me and my children to go to remember Ivan."

Svetlana too says she needs to know more but she's not sure they ever will.

"It's very important to us to know what happened. People should know why the vessel perished, why people died," she said. "My son will grow up and ask me, and what can I say to him? - 'I don't know why your father died?'

"I'm not 100% sure we'll ever be told, though. There will just be different versions, because that's what our country is like."

Salvaging the wreckage

British and Russian divers are currently working at the site of the Kursk wreckage, in the icy waters of the Barents Sea. It is a difficult and dangerous job 100 metres below the surface.

At the moment, we are striving for maximum transparency and openness, and we're also keeping the families well informed about the investigation

Igor Dygalo
Russian naval spokesman
Their mission is to salvage what remains of the submarine and crew. Yet they have been told to cut off and leave behind the front section where the explosions tore through the hull. Many wonder why - and whether the Navy has something to hide.

Igor Dygalo, a Russian naval spokesman, insists that there will be no more cover-ups.

"There are still some journalists who claim the naval command is hiding the reason for the disaster. That's completely untrue - their suspicions are groundless," he said.

"At the moment, we are striving for maximum transparency and openness, and we're also keeping the families well informed about the investigation."

Navy Day

The Russian fleet put on an impressive display of fire-power to celebrate this year's Navy Day. The Russian President Vladimir Putin made a point of being there - in stark contrast to his performance last year.

When the Kursk went down, he refused to cut short his holiday. He hass learned much since then about PR and the fact that appearances matter.

victims of the Kursk disaster in happier times
There are calls for a memorial to the victims
That is why the Kremlin is taking a close interest in the model for a memorial put forward by two sculptors in Kursk town.

It is a simple idea - the submarine's conning tower engraved with the 118 names of those who died. They want the Kremlin to pay for a full-size statue - a tribute cast in stone to the men who lost their lives.

One of the sculptors, Nikolai Krivolapov, says the families need a focus for their grief.

"A whole crew died. It would be very strange not to commemorate that. It's their grave," he said.

"The relatives - the wives, mothers and children - could go there. Everyone else has graves. For the Kursk crew, there's only water and nothing else."

Irina Tsymbal has seen the model and she likes the idea of a permanent memorial. But what she would like even more is the truth about why her husband and his comrades died.

One year on, the anger may have subsided but the grief is still raw. For Irina and many other families, the only consolation is that the remains of their sons and husbands could soon be coming home for burial.

The Kursk submarine accident

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07 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
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