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Russia: British Race To Rescue Submariners

London, 18 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - The British navy's submarine rescue commander says the hatches of the sunken "Kursk" submarine are compatible with the high-tech British sub-vessel racing toward the submarine on a rescue mission. Commander Alan Hoskins said Russia had assured the rescue mission that their mini-sub would be able to dock with the crippled "Kursk." But Britain has warned that any rescue would be a slow and painstaking process. The mini-sub from Britain is expected to reach the submarine at the weekend and hopes to save any survivors among the 118 seamen aboard.

Russian submersible rescue capsules have repeatedly failed to dock with the submarine, which sank on Saturday in the Barents Sea. Russian news agencies are reporting today that Russian efforts to rescue those on board continued overnight, but were unsuccessful. Four rescue capsules took turns diving in the waters and trying to dock with the submarine. RTR television quoted the commander of Russia's northern fleet, Vyacheslav Popov, saying there had been no fresh contact with the crew.

It remains unclear how much oxygen is left inside the vessel or whether one of its two nuclear reactors have been breached. Russian news agencies yesterday quoted Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov as saying he believes the submarine sank after it collided with a large object.