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<i>Kursk</i> Submarine Sunk by Faulty Torpedo, says Russian Official - 2002-06-19

A senior Russian official says a faulty torpedo, not a foreign vessel, is to blame for sinking Russia's Kursk nuclear submarine two years ago.

Russia's Minister for Trade, Science and Technology, Ilya Klebanov, said Wednesday there is only one possible reason for the catastrophe in which 118 people died.

Mr. Klebanov, who heads a committee investigating the incident, said the sinking was caused by a torpedo blast.

Russian officials had initially suggested that the Kursk collided with a foreign submarine or possibly with a World War II mine. But Mr. Klebanov said his commission is discounting both of those possibilities.

The Kursk went down in August 2000 in the Barents Sea after an explosion tore the submarine apart. Russians waited anxiously for days as officials tried without success to rescue the crew.

A note was later found on one of the crewmembers in which he described how some people survived the initial explosions and were trapped inside.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was sharply criticized for staying on vacation at the beginning of the crisis. The Russian president later vowed to bring up the remains of the nuclear powered submarine and bury crewmembers.

Late last year, a salvage crew working under contract to the Russian government raised most of the submarine from the sea floor and recovered 115 of the bodies on board.

Salvage workers sawed off the front section of the submarine where the torpedoes were located and left it on the sea floor. It was feared the front section might break off during the lifting and endanger the rescue workers as well as the rest of the submarine.

Small sections of the front part of the Kursk have been recovered this year, and investigators used them to piece together what happened. But Mr. Klebanov said there is no need now to raise the rest of the ship.

Mr. Klebanov's committee should release its final report later this year.