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Russia: Putin Defends Role In Sub Crisis

Moscow, 18 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that cutting short his vacation in Sochi to return to Moscow or fly to the sight of the "Kursk" submarine accident in the Barents Sea would have served no purpose. Putin, who has been criticized by the Russian media and some politicians for keeping silent for days after the crisis erupted, said the navy told him they had everything they needed. He defended Russia's delay in seeking foreign help from Norway and Great Britain and blamed bad weather as the reason for the failure of rescue efforts so far.

"I was told that the Russian side has at its disposal everything possible...all the necessary means and capabilities in order to deal with the situation effectively. I have to note that by the standards that exist for such a situation, after the disappearance of a submarine, it usually takes a week for it to be found. This boat was found in four-and-a-half hours, after which rescue operations began immediately. I repeat, immediately."

Putin, who is now in Yalta, will cut short his stay there -- where an informal CIS summit is taking place. He is expected to return to Moscow this evening.