BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Taking the blame for Kursk
Defence Minister Sergeyev (right)
Defence Minister Sergeyev (right) looks vulnerable
By BBC News Online's Stephen Mulvey

Heads will roll in Russia as a result of the Kursk disaster; it's merely a question of whose - and when.


An analysis of what has happened and why... will be made

Vladimir Putin
Russian analysts say it is vital for President Vladimir Putin to sacrifice some big names, to satisfy the public demand for blood and deflect criticism from himself.

But the time is not yet ripe. While he sharpens his knife, Mr Putin has called on the public not to get carried away by a witch-hunt.

"An analysis of what has happened and why, and how efficient the action was, will be made," he said on Friday.

'Lies' and delay

"But now, instead of looking for someone to blame and seizing them by the sleeve, we should create an atmosphere of goodwill - for the sake of those who are in trouble, those who are trying to save them, and of course for the families of our submariners."

Public anger is directed variously at Mr Putin himself, his advisers, the naval command, and the Ministry of Defence.

A poll of 500 Muscovites conducted at the weekend by the Romir public opinion research agency indicated that

  • 35% blame the Russian naval command
  • 23% blame President Putin
  • 15% blame the Ministry of Defence
  • 8.5% blame the Kursk's commanders
  • 7% blame the Russian Government

Judging from the Russian media, the public's chief complaints are with the authorities' lack of openness - their "lies", as some Russian journalists have put it - and their delay in accepting foreign help.

Mr Putin has also come under fire for failing to end his vacation for not showing strong leadership at a time of crisis.

His approval rating fell 8% to 65% in a poll published by the VTsIOM public opinion research centre on Tuesday.

Foreign help

The research was conducted over a three-day period ending on Monday - the day Russians learned that all rescue efforts had been abandoned.


All the admirals of the northern fleet should be fired

Contributor to Kirill Bekasov's website
In the Romir poll, 62% of those questioned said they thought the Russian authorities had done too little too late to save the Kursk's crew. Another 20% said they thought the Russian authorities had not done everything possible.

Only 11% thought that everything possible had been done.

One contributor to an internet bulletin board set up by a former submariner, Kirill Bekasov, wrote: "All the admirals of the northern fleet should be fired, and if they don't succeed in saving the crew of the Kursk, they should be shot."

The Russian insistence, in the first few days of the crisis, that no foreign help was required, is likely to be central to the hunt for people to blame.

Scapegoat

This point was made by Mr Putin himself in his first comments on the case - although hours later he backtracked and claimed credit for giving the order to accept foreign assistance.

Naval officers fielding calls
The navy has provided confused and contradictory information
Was he badly advised? Some in the Russian media think he was, and have directed a considerable part of their fire at his Kremlin aides.

In their defence, naval officers have also suggested that the request for foreign help had to come not from them but from the very top, because it was a politically sensitive issue.

Although Mr Putin's approval rating may fall further as a result of public disillusionment associated with his role in the Kursk crisis, there is no sign of him being forced out of office.

The hunt for a scapegoat could easily, however, reach as high as the Defence Minister, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, whose hold on his job was widely seen as insecure even before the tragedy in the Barents Sea.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"Opinion poll found nearly 50% critical of the delay in recruiting help"
The Kursk submarine accident

Key stories

CLICKABLE GUIDE

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes