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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 01:10 GMT 02:10 UK
Kursk's final hours
Russian defence minister Igor Sergeyev
Sergeyev: Reported to Putin "at least twice a day"
Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev has given the first detailed account of the final, ill-fated mission of the Kursk submarine, and the last message received from its stranded crew: "SOS, water."

Below are excerpts from his interview:

[Sergeyev] The submarine was carrying out a mission which was part of exercises - they tried to fire cruise missiles. Then in a certain area they were to find a formation of ships and strike its main target with a salvo of torpedoes.

The commander reported that the first task had been carried out.

Igor Dmitriyevich Sergeyev
Born: 1939 Verkhny, Ukraine
Graduated Nakhimov naval school 1960
Graduate, General Command Military Academy
Russian strategic missile troop commander 1992
Minister of Defence 1997 -
Promoted to Marshal 1997
And he was to have reported that the second mission had been fulfilled by 1800 [presumably Moscow time, 1400 GMT].

The submarine did not make contact at 1800.

The Northern Fleet commander, Admiral [Vyacheslav] Popov, sent an order to the submarine to report its location and what it was doing.

According to the standard documents, the submarine should have sent in an answer within four hours.

That did not happen. The submarine did not make contact.

Therefore, starting from 1800 hours the fleet commander took measures to step up the preparedness of the search and rescue forces. Work began on the 12th [August] after 1800 hours when the submarine should have made contact ...

Sunken sub located

On 13th [August], already on 13th, the submarine was found as an unidentified object.

The location of one unidentified object was found and next to it a second unidentified object. It was identified on 13th at 1840 [1440 GMT].

From that time on, work went on continuously to check that was our submarine. Preparations were made to try and rescue the submarine's crew.

There was knocking both on the 13th and the 14th. We received a short, small reply - "SOS, water".

And we kept on talking about the current, which was 2 knots, 1.5 knots at one point. And therefore the first reason was the inability to attach the equipment to the coaming.

Now, it is clear that the reason for this was a crack, and an attempt to pump out or suck out [the water] by us or by some other rescue apparatus would not have been successful.

Rescue equipment is fundamentally the same, those we have and what the British have.

I am more inclined to think that it was a collision with some object, most probably an underwater object... It was a large object of a size similar to the Kursk submarine ...

Three explosions heard

[Interviewer] There was a report about two explosions recorded by Norwegian seismological services. Did our services record any explosions?

[Sergeyev] Yes, our services also recorded them... A different matter is that another, a third explosion was recorded at 1144 [presumably Moscow time: 0744 GMT], it was recorded by our submarine.

[Interviewer] What could that have been?

[Sergeyev] Further investigation is needed.

How Putin was informed

At 1900 on Sunday I reported to the president from my work place that the submarine was not communicating and about its location, although at that point it was still to be identified ...

The president asked me: Is there a need for me to come?

From then on, the president contacted me and the navy's commander-in-chief a number of times. I reported to him at least twice a day. He constantly asked me whether everything had been done and what else needed to be done ....

The president also asked me: Is there a need for me to come? To tell you the truth, I told the president: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I personally believe that the firm command had been organised and the successful deployment of search means, the shorter than expected time taken to find and identify the submarine - in my opinion, your presence there is not necessary now. I still believe that my advice was correct ...

International assistance

Foreign help. This is all recorded. On Wednesday 16th August, there was the first offer and it was immediately accepted by the navy's commander-in-chief...

It [the Northern Fleet] has excellent deep-sea divers but there is no equipment which would allow them to work...

There are such vessels in the Black Sea Fleet, in the Pacific Fleet and the Baltic Fleet. However, their condition is pitiful ...

The Baltic Fleet has a catamaran for supporting deep-sea work which was built in 1938, like myself.

Last words

You know there was knocking both on the 13th and the 14th. Even a special (?instrument) was created on which we received a short, small reply: "SOS, water."

This was the assessment of the people who were still alive and were in the compartment. Evidently the water came in or seeped in.

[Interviewer] When did the knocking stop? What day did they stop?

[Sergeyev] They were not heard after 14th [August].

Source: Russian public television 21 Aug 2000

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The Kursk submarine accident

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