|[Excerpted from: The New York Times on the Web, 26Oct00, Associated Press, 07:17EDT]|
|A note found on one of four bodies recovered from the nuclear
[after Russian and Norwegian divers spent five days of painstaking work to cut
holes in the top of the submarine] [has provided the first evidence]
that anyone survived the initial blasts that [on 12 August 2000] tore apart the submarine
and sank it in the Barents Sea....|
|Russian Navy chief Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov [read from] a note that was found in the
pocket of a seaman identified as Lt. Dmitry Kolesnikov:
"All the crew from the sixth, seventh and eighth compartments went over to the ninth.
There are 23 people here. We made this decision as a result of the accident. None of
us can get to the surface.... I am writing blindly...."
The chief of staff of the Northern Fleet, Vice Adm. Mikhail Motsak, said later that the note
was written between 1:34 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. on Aug. 12, the day of the disaster.
Foreign and Russian ships registered two powerful explosions in the area
around 11:30 a.m.
|...Some Russian media have pointed out that by stubbornly conducting the
risky effort [of retrieving the
bodies of the dead crewmen] the government wants to vindicate its confused response to the
sinking of the Kursk, when it resisted foreign help for days while botching
its own rescue efforts.
|MOSCOW, Oct. 26 -- Trapped in the rear of a breached and sunken
submarine on the Arctic seabed, the electricity failing, facing
all-but-certain death with 22 companions, Lt. Capt. Dimitri
Kolesnikov, the commander of the turbine room on the Russian
submarine Kursk, scrawled a message 10 weeks ago to what was then
an unknowing outside world.
"13:15," he wrote, noting the military time. "All personnel from
compartments six, seven and eight moved to the ninth. There are 23
of us here. We have made this decision as a result of the accident.
None of us can get out."|
|On Thursday, the world finally heard Captain Kolesnikov's message
after Russian divers recovered his remains from the husk of the
submarine, and the note was found stuffed in his pocket.
The revelation that 23 of the Kursk's 118 crewmen survived the
sinking, at least for a while, set off a sensation and demolished
assurances by senior military officials that the Kursk's entire
crew most likely had perished within minutes of the accident. And
it instantly reignited a national debate over whether the
military's attempt to rescue the sailors, widely denounced as
botched, was fatally flawed as well.|
|...Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, the commander of the Russian Navy, said
the captain's message began legibly, as if written in a lighted
room. But by its end, he said, it was a nearly illegible scrawl
written, the note indicated, "by feel." Admiral Motsak said the
note also indicated that two or three crewmen tried to flee the
submarine through a specially built escape hatch in the ninth
compartment, where the survivors were gathered. Russian submarines
are equipped with suits designed to protect sailors during such
"As we know, that attempt failed," he said, "maybe because it was
filled with water."
Norwegian divers who opened that escape hatch nine days after the
disaster found that the air lock was filled with water. That led
the navy to abandon all efforts to find anyone alive, and to turn
its attention to recovering the dead. But the ninth compartment
might have remained dry for weeks, even up until rescuers entered
|More than simply a shared tragedy, the Kursk disaster
psychologically staggered many here who seemed to feel that
Russia's last bragging rights to technological excellence, to
military competence, to first-tier global status went down with
the biggest and most fearsome boat in its submarine arsenal.
The accident quickly generated a public excoriation of the
Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin and the military, followed by
a backlash against the West. Military leaders insist with growing
conviction that the Kursk was sunk by a collision with a Western
submarine and not, as some experts speculate, by flaws in a new
Russian torpedo propulsion system....|
|Today's bombshell seemed certain to reopen still-fresh wounds,
starting with the question of whether the navy could have rescued
those entombed in the sunken submarine in the hours after it sank.
The Kursk was participating in a naval exercise in the Barents
Sea, off Russia's northwest coast, when an explosion thudded in its
bow about 11:27 a.m. on Aug. 12. Two minutes and 15 seconds later...
a huge blast, registering a magnitude of 3.5,
blew away the submarine's torpedo room and its command post, in the
first and second compartments at the vessel's fore end....|
|Admiral Motsak said Captain
Kolesnikov had written his message between 1:34 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
that day. That suggested that at a minimum, he and 22 other crewmen
survived nearly four hours after the explosions....
What the note does not conclusively state apparently is how
long those 23 survived, a fact crucial to any review of the navy's
|By official accounts, the navy did not locate the Kursk, 354 feet
below the Barents Sea surface, until nearly 16 hours after the
accident, and did not lower the first rescue vessel until more than
15 hours after that.
A day later, the United States and Britain publicly offered to
help in the Kursk rescue effort, but two more days passed before
Mr. Putin ordered naval officials to accept any aid that was
extended. And three more days went by before British and Norwegian
rescue vessels arrived at the wreck site.|
|On Moscow streets this evening, Russians greeted the disclosure of
the note with studied cynicism. "I expected this. I think they took
too long. They should have saved them," said a 46-year-old civil
servant who would be identified only as Galina. "But who can you
blame? Everything in our country has already collapsed."
Viktor Olyasov, 55, declined to blame the military, saying nobody
still knows whether a rescue was possible. "I know only that if not
for perestroika, if not for everyone going into business and
thinking only of moving ahead, things like this wouldn't happen,"
|(Michael Wines, "'None of Us Can Get Out,' Kursk Sailor Wrote",
NYT, 27Oct00, p.A1,A12)
|Russia's official military newspaper
Krasnaya Zvezda has reported that the
Kursk's battery and propeller
torpedo-launching technology had been
replaced with a cheaper and potentially
dangerous liquid fuel system, against the
wishes of Navy officials. The liquid fuel is
|(BBC News, Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK) |
|Thomas Nilsen, a... researcher [with] The Bellona Foundation, an independent
Norwegian research group... told BBC
News Online... "The Kursk's torpedoes
used to be battery-powered, but in 1998 they
were converted to liquid fuel. [/]
The change was made to save money, but
the vessel's crew protested strongly, because
of the risk."|
|(BBC News, Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK) |
February 26, 2001.
"Sailor's Letter Claims Misfire Sank Kursk", By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS,
Filed at 1:50 p.m. ET.
MOSCOW (AP) -- A note left by a sailor said the nuclear submarine
Kursk was sunk by the explosion of a practice torpedo.... The respected
daily Izvestia on Monday quoted unidentified naval
officers as saying the... note was written by Lt. Rashid Aryapov,
who said the explosion, which sent the submarine crashing onto the
seabed, was caused by the misfiring of a practice torpedo.
"That confirms the reason for the disaster that is the most unpleasant for
the military leadership," the newspaper said....
The unidentified Northern Fleet officers told Izvestia that the letter
described how the submarine "somersaulted" in the water after the
explosion and that pieces of equipment that the shock wave tore from
their stowage places injured crew members. They said the note, written
on a book page and wrapped in plastic, was found on one of the bodies....
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who
was in charge of the Kursk salvage operation, described the note as
saying that the crew was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning from
the fire and the rise in pressure. The note itself was never shown.
Igor Spassky, the head of the Rubin design bureau that designed the
Kursk, has said that he knew what caused the disaster but refused to
name the reason. Izvestia quoted Igor Kurdin, who leads a group of
retired submariners, saying that Spassky had told him that the first blast
indeed came from a misfiring torpedo.
After the Kursk slammed onto the seabed, four combat torpedoes
detonated, instantly killing most of the crew, Kurdin quoted Spassky as
An astonishing letter to a friend shortly before the disaster
speaks of the fast-approaching doom... Alexei Korkin, a 19 year old bilge specialist
aboard the Kursk... foresaw.
"I simply don't want to see anyone," he wrote. "I walk around
as if I'm a zombie. But that's because of a total lack of sleep. I
simply can't sleep any more. I have all kinds of nightmares. Some
kind of mystification. It's good we're at our base, not at sea. We
would sink, that's for sure. Just like the (also lost Russian
"Imagine that! My snapshot would always hang on the wall at
the headquarters of our division and the fleet. And the caption
under the photo would read 'Awarded the title of Hero of Russia for
heroism and courage -- posthumously.' My name would be known
all over the world!"
He continued prophetically: "I have this premonition that the
world is caving in, that everything is crumbling...I have this feeling
that something inevitable is going to happen (it would be great if it
was my discharge.")
Alexei's last letter reached his mother, Svetlana Ivanovna, on
August 11, the eve of Kursk's accident.
|("Lost sailor wrote home of a world 'caving in' -- new book
dedicated to those who died", by Captain Vladimir Shigin; excerpts posted on
Official Information Channel website, 26Aug01)
|By 1.00 p.m. on August 12, there were 23 men in the 9th
compartment. By that time, they were the only ones remaining
alive.... Judging by everything, the submariners were getting ready to
leave the compartment and to swim to the surface.... However, [they]... were
unable to do that. All their numerous attempts to open the
emergency escape hatch failed.... But by far, not everything was lost! Most
likely, the words that [Lieutenant-Commander Dmitry] Kolesnikov wrote "...No need to despair!"
refer to that time.... Kolesnikov and the rest of the submariners knew only
too well that after their ship had failed to answer radio queries, the
fleet has already sounded the alarm and the search for them was
already going on. And that was why it was necessary to do
everything possible for the compartment to survive, to save one's
own life and wait, wait, wait.... Now is the time to remember the numerous statements
made by naval commanders about how long the men in the 9th
compartment could last out. Most often the figure of ten days was
given. Today's analysis of the situation in the 9th compartment
also confirms this period: they were able and ready to last out
these same ten days. However, this did not happen. Why?
Because something horrible happened - something that
dashed all the thoughts and hopes of millions of people. That
brings us directly to the mystery of what actually happened in the
9th compartment.... So what actually happened in the 9th compartment at about
7 p.m. on August 12? ....By the evening, there was an obvious lack of oxygen in the
compartment. It was decided to charge the double-decker
regeneration unit with fresh regeneration plates. This job was given
to three submariners. They approached the regeneration unit with
a can of special fluid and started recharging. And that is when the
irretrievable happened. One of the three dropped the regeneration
plates and possibly the whole can into the water that was mixed
with oil. One can only suppose why this happened. Most likely
this was due to fatigue from the previous hours, the cramped
quarters and insufficient lighting. Then came the explosion....
By the nature of the burns, one may assume that one of the
seamen tried to cover the can filled with regeneration fluid with his
body and take the entire force of the explosion upon himself.... But even that desperate, fatal lunge could no
longer change anything.... The men next to the regeneration unit were killed
instantaneously as a result of the explosion. The rest lived a little
longer. The explosion immediately consumed all the oxygen,
discharging tremendous volumes of carbon monoxide. No-one
expected the explosion, and that is why none of the submariners
were wearing the breathing equipment they were dutifully
preserving in case they managed to get out of the submarine. That
is why for all of them it was sufficient to take one or two
inhalations to lose consciousness. That was the end....
|("We must fight for our lives, we must win
time!", by Captain Vladimir Shigin; posted on
Official Information Channel website, no date;
copied from Information Channel website on 09Sep01)
|NPR All Things Considered,
British journalist Robert Moore, author of
A Time to Die: The Untold Story of The Kursk Tragedy
said that the
disaster was an accident waiting to happen in the cash-starved post-Soviet Russian navy
where sailors went for months without pay, and communication breakdowns and training
accidents had become "normal", so that loss of communication with the Kursk
did immediately arouse concern.|
|Moore said the explosions that doomed the Kursk were
most likely caused by the use of hydrogen peroxide as a torpedo propellant --
a chemical so volatile that Britain's Royal Navy banned its use decades earlier.
The explosions in the forward torpedo room killed almost all the crew instantly,
but 23 sailors found refuge in the very last compartment.
However, the batteries of the Russian mini-sub sent to save them
didn't run long enough for sustained rescue operations.
With time running out, Russian military leaders kept a tight lid of secrecy over the incident,
and only accepted foreign help days later.|
|Moore believes the chance of rescuing the trapped
sailors was minimized by the Russians waiting so long to accept help.
Moore says that forensic evidence has shown that the 23 sailors in the
9th compartment lived for 3 or 4 days (before dying due to an accidental fire, perhaps the
such as described by Captain Shigin, immediately above).
Had the Russian government immediately
availed itself of all rescue resources, including offers from The West,
there does seem to be a chance that some or all of the men in the 9th compartment might have