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<i>Kursk</i> Reaches Dry Dock - 2001-10-21

The ill-fated Russian nuclear submarine Kursk is finally being moved into dry dock in a northern Russian port. Experts soon hope to get inside the wreck of the sub, which was raised from the ocean floor two weeks ago in an unprecedented salvage operation.

Tugboats are slowly towing a giant barge toward the shore with the wreck of the Kursk clamped underneath.

Salvage teams will soon move the Kursk into a half-submerged floating dock which will then raise the submarine up out of the water.

This will finally give investigators a chance to get inside the sub, which sank 14 months ago in the Barents Sea killing all 118 crewmen on board.

Russia's attorney general and several assistants will be the first to enter the Kursk.

They want to look for evidence which may explain exactly what caused two explosions which sent the sub plummeting to the ocean floor.

Attorney General Vladimir Ustinov says he wants to see who or what may be responsible for the accident, one of the worst in Russia's naval history.

Most experts say a torpedo most likely misfired and set off a second, much larger explosion. But some Russian Navy officers insist the Kursk could have collided with another submarine.

"Those responsible will bear responsibility whatever their rank," said Mr. Ustinov.

The investigation may prove impossible for now because the front section where the explosions occurred was cut off for safety reasons and remains on the seabed. There are plans to bring it up next summer.

After removing the remains of crew members from the Kursk, the Navy will also take away 22 supersonic missiles and the sub's two nuclear reactors.

Officials say that radiation levels are constantly being monitored around the Kursk. So far everything is normal, but they warn that the recovery process will be complex and dangerous once the Kursk is in dry dock.