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Some <i>Kursk</i> Missiles Too Damaged For Salvage - 2001-11-04

Russian officials have decided against removing all 23 supersonic missiles from the wreck of the Kursk nuclear submarine. The Kursk is in dry dock in northern Russia after it was raised from the ocean floor last month.

Navy specialists say seven of the 23 missiles will be left inside the sub because their silo casings are severely damaged. The silos will be filled with a neutralizing liquid and scrapped along with the rest of the Kursk once salvage work is completed.

Officials say the silos were damaged by two explosions that caused the sub to sink almost 15 months ago. The rest of the missiles have been removed, along with more than 50 bodies of crewmembers who died in the disaster.

Most of the remains have been identified and sent home for burial to different locations across Russia. All 118 crewmen died within hours of the Kursk's sinking in August last year.

Meanwhile, investigators continue looking for clues as to what triggered the first explosion. Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov says a torpedo was most likely to blame. Experts say the torpedo probably misfired, which set off a second, much larger explosion about two minutes later.

Mr. Ustinov says that there is no evidence to support the theory that the Kursk may have collided with another vessel, perhaps a foreign submarine. Soon after the accident, senior Russian Navy officers insisted that a collision must have occurred.

The final determination on the cause may have to wait until next summer, when the front section of the Kursk is due to be raised. That section contains the torpedo bay, and salvage teams sawed it off for safety reasons before raising the main part of the sub early last month.