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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports
"Hundreds of relatives have been arriving in Murmansk"
 real 28k

The BBC's Stephen Dalziel reports
"It's likely the defence minister may be made the scapegoat for the disaster"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Russia mourns Kursk crew
Young Russian sailor
Russia is gripped by sorrow, anger and shock
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed Wednesday a day of national mourning for the crew of the sunken nuclear submarine, Kursk.

Mr Putin is also flying to the headquarters of the Northern Fleet, at Severomorsk, to pay tribute to the sub's crew. He is also expected to meet some of the bereaved families.

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin is expected to meet some of the bereaved families
On Monday, the government acknowledged that all 118 crew members on board the submarine, which sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea on 12 August, were dead.

Russian and Norwegian experts have now begun a thorough examination of the wreck.

The troubled nine-day rescue operation ended after Norwegian-led divers forced open the submarine's rear escape hatch and found that the whole of the vessel was flooded.

Forgive the children. Forgive your sons. And forgive me for not bringing back your boys

Admiral Vyacheslav Popov

Day of mourning

President Putin's decree spoke of his grief over the loss of the submarine's crew and offered condolences to their families and relatives.

The Russian flag is to be flown at half-mast throughout the country, while television and radio stations have been asked to drop entertainment shows from their schedules.

Russians light candles for the crew of the Kursk
Russians have been holding religious services for the crew
Correspondents say the announcement could be a move by the Russian president to divert some of the public criticism he and his government are facing.

Mr Putin has come under fire from the press for remaining on holiday as the disaster unfolded, while Russians blame the country's leadership for being too slow to seek international help to save the men.

map showing submarine's location
More than 500 people mourning the loss of their sons, husbands and friends have arrived from all over Russia at Severomorsk and the naval base of Vidyayevo.

Many still hold out hope that their loved ones might have survived.

Scouring the seabed

A Norwegian-led team of divers is helping with the Kursk inquiry, which will initially focus on examining the seabed around the wreck.

Kursk timeline
12 August: Sinks in Barents Sea during exercises
14 August: Russian navy inspects stricken sub
15 August: Attempts to attach rescue capsule fail
16 August: Russians report no signs of life in the Kursk. Accept help from the West
17 August: British and Norwegian craft readied for rescue attempt
19 August: British and Norwegian teams arrive at the scene
20 August: Norwegian divers examine the Kursk
21 August: Divers enter flooded sub
A small robot will help collect samples from inside the vessel which will be tested for any signs of radioactivity leaking from the sub's reactors.

The team has also been asked to help recover the bodies of the crew, but the company supplying the team says such an operation would be dangerous and could take weeks.

One possibility being discussed is to drag the sub into shallower waters.

Torpedo theory

Norway's military has rejected Russian suggestions that there had been a collision.

"There may have been an explosion in one of the weapons systems aboard, for example a torpedo, which then triggered a bigger explosion two minutes later," armed forces spokesman Brigadier Kjell Grandhagen said.

As criticism mounts against the government and the military top brass over their rescue efforts, correspondents say they are now keen to make amends.

Kursk crew (pictured in October 1999)
The Kursk crew (pictured in October 1999)
The commander of the Russian Northern Fleet, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, on Monday appealed for forgiveness from the families of the crew.

In an emotional television broadcast, he said the navy had done everything in its power to save the men.

"Forgive the children. Forgive your sons. And forgive me for not bringing back your boys," he said from the deck of a cruiser in the Barents Sea.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 | Europe
Kursk's final hours
22 Aug 00 | Scotland
Kursk bodies recovery planned
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