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Russia: Storm Hinders Submarine Rescue Efforts

Moscow, 15 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian reports say stormy weather conditions may be hampering efforts to rescue more than 100 sailors trapped aboard a crippled Russian submarine laying on the bottom of the Barents Sea inside the Arctic Circle. Reports said naval teams have been able to make contact with the crew of the nuclear-powered Kursk and had hooked up equipment to provide oxygen and power for the crew of as many as 116. It was unclear what caused the submarine to plunge to the sea floor during training exercises Sunday. Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov said the Kursk had been seriously damaged, perhaps from a major collision. Russian officials said the submarine was not carrying nuclear weapons and that its two nuclear reactors have been switched off. There were no reports of radioactive leaks.

The U.S. Defense Department says it has no indication that any U.S. ship was involved in a collision that Russian officials say may have caused the nuclear-powered submarine to sink to the bottom of the Sea.

Rear Admiral Craig Quigley also told reporters the U.S. military had not been asked to assist in a possible rescue of the submarine Kursk's crew. CNN reported that White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger offered help but Russia has not accepted.

U.S. military officials say a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance ship was operating in or near the Barents Sea at the time of the Russian incident. They say the surveillance ship was monitoring submarine movements but was far from the Kursk.