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Russian Navy Officers Punished in <i>Kursk</i> Sinking

Senior Russian navy officers have been disciplined for "serious violations," apparently in connection with the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk in August 2000. The disciplinary action was taken after President Vladimir Putin received a briefing about the investigation into what caused the disaster.

Two top admirals of Russia's Northern Fleet were demoted and several others were dismissed. Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Kuroyedov gave no specific reason for the demotions. But they were announced soon after President Putin met with the top official investigating the accident, which killed all 118 men on board the submarine.

Mr. Putin said afterward he doubted the theory favored by some senior naval officers, that the Kursk sank after it collided with another submarine, perhaps a foreign vessel.

Investigators appear to have found no evidence that would indicate such a collision took place, even after the wreckage of the sub was raised from the ocean floor in October.

But the president added that there were signs of a lack of preparation for exercises that the Kursk was taking part in at the time. The exercises included test firing torpedoes, one of which is believed to have misfired, setting off a large explosion that sank the giant sub.

The two demoted admirals were Northern Fleet Commander Vyacheslav Popov and his chief of staff Mikhail Motsak. Both men have played a prominent role in handling the aftermath of the disaster. At one point soon after the sinking, Admiral Popov made a tearful apology while discussing the tragedy on national television, even offering to resign.

But criticism was not limited to the navy. President Putin was criticized for failing to interrupt a beach vacation and for displaying what was interpreted as insensitivity to the relatives of the doomed crewmen.

More than 60 bodies have been removed from the Kursk, which is in dry dock in a northern port town.