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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Kursk gives up its dead
Kursk
The Kursk's naval emblems are still visible
Russian investigators have recovered three bodies from the Kursk nuclear submarine after entering the wreck for the first time.

The vessel was raised from the bottom of the Barents Sea earlier this month and brought into dry dock at the weekend.


It is a very, very, very remarkable sight

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov
Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov who is leading the investigation said more bodies had been seen and these would be recovered as conditions allowed.

According to a note found in the pocket of one of the 12 submariners whose bodies were recovered last year, there should be 11 more bodies in the rear "refuge compartment" which the salvage team has entered first.

Mr Ustinov said those bodies found were in good enough condition to be identified, but the BBC's Stephen Dalziel in Moscow , says that even if all the remaining 11 bodies in the rear can be found, it is unlikely that any more than remains of other crew members will be recovered.

The force of the blasts which sank the submarine could mean that most of the crew were simply vaporised.

Preparing for the worst

Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov
Prosecutor General Ustinov (centre): Leading the investigation
Mr Ustinov told Russian television that the sight defied description.

"The clearest example of the massive destruction... can be seen in the first three compartments where there is a pile of twisted metal," he said.

"It is a very, very, very remarkable sight."

Our correspondent says Mr Ustinov seemed to be preparing relatives for the reality of the bodies' condition when he described his shock over the scale of the destruction on entering the wreck.

Investigation

The salvage team that entered the submarine included chemical, biological and radiation experts from the Northern Fleet.

They had been waiting for the wreck - which has been brought into dock near the northern town of Roslyakovo - to dry out before examining its interior.

Click here to see a graphic of the inside of the Kursk

"The state of the bodies at the time of death can give replies to many questions of investigation," Mr Ustinov said.

But he warned it would be some time before there would be any results.

"Many of the bodies will be unrecognisable. So we need at least a month," he said. "We will unravel this mystery. We will not conceal it from society".

radiation testing
The navy says the radiation levels remain normal

Investigators will also look for any surviving journals and letters which might give them clues to the submariners' final hours.

But Mr Ustinov said the bow section of the submarine, which was too fragile to be lifted to the surface with the rest of the wreck, will hold the best information about what caused the sinking. That is due to be lifted next year.

Theories to explain the disaster include an explosion of a faulty torpedo in the bow and a collision with another submarine or old anti-shipping mine.

No radiation leak

The Russian Navy said on Thursday that water samples taken from the submarine's reactor compartment showed there had been no radiation leak.

Local residents have expressed concern about the radiation risks posed by the presence of the shattered submarine, but the navy insists it has taken sufficient precautions to protect the population.

Preparations are also under way for the removal of the Kursk's 22 Granit cruise missiles - each of which has a 1,000 kilogramme warhead and weighs 6.9 tonnes.

A spokesman for the Northern Fleet said it appeared the missile silos had not been damaged, and that they could therefore be removed without cutting through the hull.




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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Dalziel in Moscow
"It didn't take long to find the first bodies of the crew"
See also:

23 Oct 01 | Europe
Kursk investigators examine sub
26 Oct 01 | Europe
In pictures: Kursk on the surface
22 Oct 01 | Scotland
Tribute paid to Kursk victims
11 Oct 01 | UK
'I helped raise the Kursk'
07 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
New theory for Kursk sinking
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