MOSCOW (AP) – A retired Russian admiral alleged that the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster was caused by a collision with a NATO submarine, an unproven claim that defies the official conclusion that the country’s worst post-Soviet naval disaster was triggered by a faulty torpedo.
Retired Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, who was the commander of the Russian Northern Fleet when the Kursk exploded and sank during naval maneuvers in the Barents Sea, accused in an interview published on Monday that the submarine of the NATO had inadvertently struck the Kursk while keeping close watch on it.
Popov told state news agency RIA Novosti that the western submarine was also damaged by the powerful explosion and sent a distress signal from the area. He did not identify the submarine and admitted that there was a lack of evidence to support his claim.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Popov’s claim and pointed to the official investigation which concluded the disaster was triggered by an explosive propellant that escaped from a faulty torpedo.
Popov, who has been blamed for his slow and sloppy response to the disaster as leader of the Northern Fleet, has already claimed responsibility for the collision, but his latest statement was more candid and detailed.
Russian media have claimed that two US submarines and a British submarine were spotted in the area near the Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea when the Kursk disaster struck.
The Kursk sank on August 12, 2000, after suffering two powerful explosions. Most of the 118 crew members were killed instantly, but when the submarine sank to the bottom of the sea, just 108 meters below the surface, 23 men were able to flee to an aft compartment, where they have been waiting to help.
The disoriented Russian Navy command wasted hours before launching a search, and authorities turned down offers of Western aid, stubbornly sending Russian mini-submarines to make repeated and unsuccessful attempts to cling to the emergency hatch of the submarine. After a week Russia finally invited Norwegian divers and it only took them a few hours to open the hatch, but by then it was too late to save anyone.
After the disaster, some Navy officials said the crew members who survived the blast may have been alive for three days, but investigators ultimately concluded that they all died of poisoning in the blast. carbon monoxide within eight hours of the explosion – long before any help could arrive. .
The government’s failed handling of the rescue effort has shaken the nation and shaken the prestige of President Vladimir Putin.
The wreckage of the Kursk was lifted in October 2001, allowing investigators to recover 115 bodies and to search the mutilated hull for clues to the cause.
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