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Families of Kursk Victims Attend Memorial Service - 2001-08-12

Church services have been held across Russia to mark the first anniversary of the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine. The families of the 118 men who died in the tragedy have traveled to the Arctic town where the submarine was based.

More than 300 relatives of the Kursk crew attended a memorial service for their loved ones in the Arctic naval port of Vidayevo.

Many wept as they observed a minute's silence and laid flowers at a simple hilltop monument to Russian submariners lost at sea. A new stone had been added honoring the 118 men who lost their lives aboard the Kursk. The commander of Russia's navy was present, and flags flew at half-mast on all the vessels of the Northern Fleet.

The families attended two more services one at the submarine base, and one at a Russian Orthodox Church.

Many of the relatives remain angry with the government for its handling of the tragedy. A year later, Russia says it still does not know what caused the explosion in the Kursk's torpedo bay.

It says it is raising the submarine to try to find out. But the plan is to slice the submarine in two, leaving the bow where the explosion took place on the seabed. Naval experts agree that without examining this section, the cause of the sinking may never be known.

Salvage divers also stopped work for two minutes as a mark of respect for the submarine's crew. They are starting the operation to detach the bow, slicing it off with chainsaws. When the Kursk went down the bow was packed with 18 torpedoes and 24 cruise missiles.

If all goes according to plan, the bow should be detached by the end of the week. Then the salvage team will lift the rear of the 18,000-ton submarine with 24 hydraulic cables attached to a pontoon. In a month, the Kursk, with its cargo of bodies, missiles, and two nuclear reactors, is to be towed into port.

But the salvage is already behind schedule and it must be completed before the Arctic winter makes diving impossible.