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Russia: Norwegian Divers Open Sub's Escape Hatch

Murmansk, Russia; 21 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - The Russian navy says Norwegian divers have opened an escape hatch into the "Kursk" nuclear submarine and that they found no signs of life. A Northern Fleet spokesman said the divers returned to the surface after confirming there is water between the outside and inside hatches. Northern Fleet commander Vyacheslav Popov said next they will open the inside hatch, which would enable rescuers to enter the submarine. British and Russian officials now say that a British mini-submarine standing by on the surface is unlikely to make a dive to the "Kursk," which sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea more than a week ago with 118 men on board.

Norwegian officials said yesterday Norwegian divers found the sub's rear escape hatch intact. This contradicted earlier Russian reports which said a massive crack was found on the hatch that would prevent a vacuum seal with the British mini-submarine.