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The BBC's Orla Guerin in Murmansk
"The Kremlin didn't want public anger on display"
 real 56k

Julian Thomson, salvage company Stolt Offshore
"It is the first time that 3 navies have ever worked together on the project"
 real 56k

Union of Soldiers' Mothers, Ida Kuklina
"They don't want to publicly discuss their mistakes"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Putin admits 'guilt' for sub disaster
Russian sailor
Sailors are remembering their lost colleagues
Russian President Vladmir Putin has said on state television that he feels responsible and guilty for the Kursk submarine disaster in which 118 sailors lost their lives.

Mr Putin said he had received offers of resignation from the defence minister, the navy chief and the commander of the Northern Fleet, but he had decided not to accept them.

He said that if any people were found responsible for the disaster they would be punished - but only after a thorough investigation.

Mr Putin was speaking after relatives of the sailors who perished on the nuclear submarine refused to recognise the national day of mourning being observed in Russia.

The main ceremony, in which the president had been expected to throw a wreath into the waters of the Barents Sea above the wreck, was cancelled.

Flags at half-mast
Flags are at half-mast across Russia
Mr Putin returned to Moscow after relatives at the Northern Fleet's base in Vidyayevo told him they could not begin to mourn until they had seen their loved ones' bodies with their own eyes.

Correspondents say Vidyayevo is the only place in Russia where flags are not standing at half mast and candles are not being lit in memory of the crew.


I'd say that a lifting the submarine would be in summer next year at the earliest

Julian Thomson, Stolt Offshore spokesman
For the past week, the garrison town has been home to the hundreds of relatives, some of whom hold out hope that their husbands, fathers and brothers may still be alive.

On Thursday, some relatives are due to sail to the spot where the submarine sank on 12 August and spend a few moments in private reflection.

Compensation

Across Russia flags have been lowered on all government buildings, and radio and television stations have replaced entertainment programmes with more sombre material.

Relative with photo of crew
Relatives are refusing to recognise the day of mourning
The government has announced that the families of the dead will receive an average compensation of $7,000 - equivalent to more than 10 years' wages.

While the official line was that Mr Putin left because there was to be no ceremony, correspondents say he was shocked by the hostile reception he received from grieving families.

"The grief is immeasurable, there are not enough words of comfort," Mr Putin told them

Mr Putin meets sub captain's wife
Mr Putin met relatives of the crew
"My heart hurts, but yours hurt even more."

The Kursk rescue operation finally came to an end on Monday after a team of Norgegian and British divers forced open the submarine's rear escape hatch and found that the whole vessel was flooded.

Recovery operation

Experts have warned that the recovery of the bodies of the crew could take until 2001.

"Our feasibility study of raising the wreck or of recovering the bodies will take months," said Julian Thomson, spokesman for Stolt Offshore, the Norwegian company whose divers opened the wreck.

"In practical terms, I'd say that a lifting would be in summer next year at the earliest."

Kursk timeline
12 Aug: Sinks during Barents Sea exercises
14 Aug: Russian navy inspects sub
15 Aug: Attempts to attach rescue capsule fail
16 Aug: Russians report no signs of life. Accept help from the West
17 Aug: British and Norwegian craft readied for rescue attempt
19 Aug: British and Norwegian teams arrive at scene
20 Aug: Norwegian and British divers examine Kursk
21 Aug: Divers enter flooded sub
22 Aug: President Putin arrives in Murmansk
23 Aug: National day of mourning - Mr Putin returns to Moscow
He added that it would probably be easier to raise the entire wreck than retrieve corpses.

The joint Russian-Norwegian environmental group, Bellona, which monitors nuclear problems in the region, said on Wednesday there were no signs of radiation leaking from the sunken submarine.

The cause of the disaster is still unclear.

Russian officials say they believe the submarine may have collided with a Western submarine that was in the Barents Sea to monitor a large naval exercise in which the Kursk was taking part.

Western experts say the damage to the submarine appears to have been caused by a catastrophic explosion in the torpedo bay.

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See also:

23 Aug 00 | Media reports
Sombre media continues to question
22 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Norway wants nuclear alert revived
23 Aug 00 | Media reports
The crew of the Kursk
22 Aug 00 | Europe
Kursk's final hours
22 Aug 00 | Scotland
Kursk bodies recovery planned
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