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Did collision with a NATO submarine sink the Kursk?
John Heathcote
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On Saturday, August 12th 2000, the giant Russian nuclear submarine Kursk - carrying a crew of 118 - sank in the icy waters of the Barents Sea after what Russian officials described as a "catastrophe that developed at lightning speed." More than a week later divers opened the rear hatch of the sub but found no survivors. Our in-depth special examines the submarine, the disaster and the aftermath.

The sinking of the submarine the Kursk might not be as straightforward as the collapse of unmaintained Russian hardware, or incompetence.

Reports of collision causing sinking of the Kursk are still being issued by defence personnel in Russia. In The Guardian of September 5th 2000 , a report from Moscow quotes a senior Russian officer who claims that the Kursk was sunk in collision with a NATO vessel, probably a British or American spy sub.

Repeating claims made by various Russian defence sources soon after the tragedy occured, Colonel General Manilov, deputy Chief of the General Staff said

The Kursk probably collided with another submarine whose keel cut open the nose of the (Kursk) submarine and possibly damaged the hull . . . The collision version is also confirmed by the nature of the other damage to the Kursk - the damage to the tower and the fact that its railings were removed.

The General continued by telling journalists that Russian rescue vessels had located debris nearby which resembled:

". . . the railings of a conning tower similar to those fitted on American and British submarines."

The Russians had not been able to raise this object yet, but were guarding it with battleships. Their suspicions that foreign vessels may have been involved was heightened by the discovery of what appeared to be an underwater hillock, or raised area 500 metres from their sunken submarine, which subsequently disappeared.

Although NATO sources have been quick to deny any collision between the Kursk and one of their vessels, they admitted to having two spy submarines in the Barents Sea at the time watching the manouveres of the Russian Fleet.

Although officially declining to name either, the name of one of the submarines was leaked in Washington. According to Veniks Aviation Page:

Further discussion of the accident among Russian submarine experts in private and on the pages of the Russian press, comes to a following conclusion: "Kursk" was deliberately rammed either by a large foreign submarine or by an unmanned submarine-torpedo (a project being developed by the U.S. for the past 15 years.)

The American nuclear submarine SSN 691 Memphis, Los-Angeles class, is currently located at the Norwegian port in Bergen. A representative of the Norwegian embassy in Moscow told the Russian RIA "Novosti" news agency that the 'Memphis' entered the Norwegian port "for repairs." Initially the Norwegian embassy refused to say when the American submarine requested entry to and entered the Norwegian base. Shortly after publishing this information, RIA "Novosti" was contacted by another representative of the Norwegian embassy, Ule Hopestad, who said that his colleague, who gave the initial interview to the news agency, provided "incorrect information" due to his "problems with the Russian language. According to Ule Hopestad, the 'Memphis' entered the Norwegian port in Bergen on August 18 not for repairs but to replenish its supplies of food and to allow its crew to rest. Norwegian officials say that 'Memphis' was scheduled to arrive to Bergen almost two months in advance.

The Russians later claimed that the other - unnamed - submarine was the USS Toledo, now docked in Faslane nuclear base, Scotland.

Article reprinted from the Russian Gazeta

On Monday General Manilov told a press conference that the latest findings at the scene of the sunken Kursk submarine serve as further proof that the most likely cause of the accident, which caused the K-141 class nuclear submarine to sink, was a collision with a large submersed object weighing about 8-9 tonnes. Manilov reiterated the commission's assumption that the object was most likely a foreign submarine.

Valery Manilov told reporters that the Russian search team working at the site had found a "conning tower rail," resembling those on British and American submarines and that at present, it is not possible to lift the object, but vessels from Russia's Northern Fleet are vigilantly guarding the area.

The general also announced that the echo sounder of the nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky detected two objects at the site of Kursk disaster. Later one of those objects disappeared.

Manilov again mentioned that a few days after the submarine sank, a light-green buoy was sighted on the surface in the area of the rescue operation. The Russian Navy does not have light green buoys. Later the object disappeared.

Manilov claimed all these facts further confirm the preliminary conclusions reached by the governmental investigators as to the cause of the Kursk disaster, i.e. that the as it was surfacing the Kursk collided with a foreign another sub, which was at a higher level and struck the Russian sub with its keel.

However, it seems the General has confused the facts.

Northern Fleet spokesman Admiral Vladimir Navrotsky informed Gazeta.Ru that last week two submersible vehicles dove to the seabed where the Kursk is lying and no such object was found. No other studies or searches have been performed in the area since, Admiral Navrotsky added.

Navrotsky also said that a few days after the tragic events in the Barents Sea, the Russian mass media communicated reports about an object resembling a conning tower rail found in about 330 meters away from Kursk, but that no plausible evidence has been presented to confirm the reports.

Vladimir Navrotsky confirmed that Russian Navy ships are currently in the area around above the sunken Kursk. However, their main task is not to guard the "object, allegedly from an alien submarine," but to prepare for the operation to retrieve the bodies of the dead crew and, at a later date, to raise the Kursk.

A Russian hydrographic vessel is also in the area to take regular measurements of the radiation level in the Barents Sea, Navrotsky said.

©Russian Gazeta, 2000