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Russia Commemorates 5th Anniversary of Kursk Tragedy

Ceremonies are being held across Russia Friday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in which all 118 people on board died. The memorials come just one week after the nation held its breath over another submarine incident -- this one ended happily with the rescue of seven sailors stranded in a mini-sub trapped on the ocean floor.

Flags on Russian naval vessels are flying at half mast, and sailors observed a minute of silence to remember those lost in the Kursk disaster.

In the central Russian city of Kursk, for which the submarine was named, a monument honoring the dead seamen was unveiled. The monument incorporates segments of the recovered submarine, and mourners placed flowers around it.

This woman, the mother of a sailor on board the Kursk, tells Russian television the memorial makes her feel closer to her son.

The Kursk sank in the cold, dark waters of the Barents Sea, off northwestern Russia, during a training exercise. According to the summary of a governmental commission, most of the men died in an initial explosion in one of the torpedo tubes apparently caused by a gas leak.

A fire and second blast followed. About 20 sailors huddled in the stern of the stricken submarine for several days. There, they lived out their last hours, writing letters to their families, and waiting and praying for help that never came.

Lengthy investigations and subsequent media reports later showed that it was nine hours before the commanding officer made the call for help. President Putin also came under fire for not interrupting his summer holiday.

But many Russians say they feel Mr. Putin's biggest mistake was turning down foreign offers of assistance.

After the disaster, the leading admiral of Russia's northern fleet was fired.

Leading independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, in Moscow, earlier told VOA that the tragedy of the Kursk nuclear submarine is little different from that recently experienced by the families and crew of the min-sub that was rescued with British assistance. "The experience of the Kursk shows that today's Russians will probably not get the true answers that they deserve," he said.

Mr. Felgenhauer said there is still too much secrecy around revealing details of such tragedies, or the findings of subsequent investigations.