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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Tribute paid to Kursk victims
Lord Provost Margaret Smith
Lord Provost Margaret Smith on board the Mayo
Divers who helped recover the wreck of a Russian nuclear submarine have been thanked by officers representing the 118 victims' families.

A memorial service was held in Aberdeen on Monday to pay tribute to those who lost their lives when the Kursk sank in the Barents Sea.

The event was attended by five Russian naval officers representing the crew members who perished during a naval exercise in August last year.

Diver Jim Irvine
Jim Irvine: "We have achieved something"
And they offered their thanks to the North Sea diving crew on board DSND Mayo, which returned to Aberdeen from the three-month salvage operation at the weekend.

Rear Admiral Gennady Verich told a news conference on the ship that he was happy to be there because of the very important and huge task which had been done.

Russian divers worked alongside British divers employed by Aberdeenshire-based company DSND on board the Mayo, which is operated by Dutch company Mammoet.

They left Aberdeen in July bound for the Barents Sea, where they worked to secure the Kursk's hull.

More than 30 divers from DSND worked in the cold of the Barents Sea, preparing the huge submarine to be lifted to the surface.

It was the huge responsibility that was on our shoulders for the successful completion of the operation.

Behk Vassily Fyodorovich
The operation, which took 85 days to complete, involved clearing the seabed around the shattered bow before cutting into the submarine's hull.

The Kursk was finally brought from the Barents Sea on 8 October.

Captain first rank Behk Vassily Fyodorovich said the Russians had made many British friends during their 101-day stay on board the Mayo.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said: "It was the huge responsibility that was on our shoulders for the successful completion of the operation.

"This particular operation was unique and we do hope that it will never happen again.

Salvage operation

"The people of Russia want to know the reason why the tragedy happened."

The Russian officers were welcomed to Aberdeen by Lord Provost Margaret Smith on board the Mayo in Aberdeen Harbour.

A civic reception, attended by the officers and members of the DSND diving team, was then held in Aberdeen to mark the official end of the Kursk salvage operation.

Sean Pople
Sean Pople: "Deepest sympathies"
Diver Jim Irvine, from St Andrews, said: "It feels great to be part of a team that has brought these Russian sailors home."

He said it felt good to know that their families could now bury their loved ones.

"We have achieved something for the Russian people as well as the Russian government," he said.

DSND offshore project manager Sean Pople said it had been a "very challenging" operation.

He said: "Before the divers could get into the final stage of fitting the grippers - the mechanism used to secure the lifting equipment to the wreck - dozens of detailed surveys and assessments had to performed.

Memorial services

"Also, hundreds of accurate measurements were made, tonnes of steel structures had to be removed and guides had to be precisely fitted before the grippers could be inserted into their respective holes.

"Despite all of this, the crew never forgot that the Kursk was a grave, where many men had perished.

"Three memorial services were held on Mayo and our deepest sympathies were always with their relatives."

Senior DSND personnel said they had made many friends among the senior Russian Federation officers and many divers have agreed to get together with their Russian colleagues in the near future.

BBC Scotland's Colin Wight reports
"Final tributes were paid to the submariners who died"
See also:

21 Oct 01 | Europe
Kursk reaches dry dock
11 Oct 01 | UK
'I helped raise the Kursk'
10 Oct 01 | Europe
Kursk success opens new risks
07 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
New theory for Kursk sinking
22 Jul 01 | Scotland
Kursk children visit Scots base
06 Jul 01 | Scotland
Kursk salvage team sets sail
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