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Russia: Norwegians Leave Sub Wreck Site

Oslo, 22 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - A team of Norwegian deep-sea divers have left the site of the "Kursk" submarine wreck after discovering yesterday that there were no survivors inside. A British rescue mini-submarine also is expected to leave the site later today. Russian officials say it could take up to two months to recover the bodies of the 118 sailors who perished on board the "Kursk." Norwegian military officials today said data from a Norwegian monitoring ship shows explosions of weapons inside the "Kursk" probably caused the vessel to sink. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev yesterday repeated his claims that a collision, probably with a foreign vessel, was the most likely cause. "It was a collision with some sort of object. More likely than not an underwater object. The records of those making direct observations show buoys and an unidentified object at the bottom of the sea, which was at the same level as our submarine. This is a fact."

But a Norwegian military spokesman said there were no indications the "Kursk" had collided with another vessel. He called such talk "domestic propoganda."

Russian President Vladimir Putin today flew to Northern Fleet Headquarters in Severomorsk, which was the home base of the "Kursk." Putin has been strongly criticized for his handling of the submarine crisis.