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Dutch barge takes home wreck of submarine Kursk

Putinís promise nearly fulfilled

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

MURMANSK, Russia - Russian naval vessels saluted the Dutch barge Giant-4 as it entered the Kola Bay, carrying the wreck of the nuclear submarine Kursk locked against its bottom under the surface. After a thorough investigation of the condition of the wreck and a check of radiation levels, the submarine will be transferred to a floating dock.

Only then, the recovery of the bodies of more than 100 sailors, and also of the costly Granite cruise missiles still on board, can be started.

The Kursk was lifted from the seabed after months of preparations by Dutch companies Mammoet and Smit International. The salvage operation, the first of its kind, frequently was hampered by poor weather conditions in the Barents Sea. The actual lifting took fifteen hours. At a speed of around 10 metres per hour, the Kursk was raised under the Giant-4, before being towed to the quieter waters of Kola Bay.

Prior to the lifting, the heavily damaged front compartment of the submarine was cut off and left behind at the sea floor for later salvage.

Promise fulfilled

In August last year, the torpedo room of the Kursk was largely blown away by a heavy blast, which sent the submarine and its 118 member crew to the bottom of the Barents Sea. The exact cause of the blast is still un-known. Russian investigators are considering various options, including a collision with a foreign submarine or a mine from World War II, or an exploding torpedo. The answer may only be found when the wreckage that was left behind has been examined.

The Kursk disaster led to an outcry of grief and anger among relatives of the crew members. For days it was unclear what had happened to the vessel, whether there were any survivors and whether anything was being done to rescue them. President Vladimir Putin was holidaying at a Black Sea resort at the time and was severely criticised for his failure to return immediately. Later, during a confrontation with angry relatives of crew members, Putin promised that the Kursk would be lifted this year.