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CNN Today

Russian Submarine Accident: Putin Declares National Day of Mourning

Aired August 22, 2000 - 1:23 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president of Russia has declared tomorrow a national day of mourning for the crew of the submarine Kursk. Russian leaders promise that all 118 victims of the Kursk catastrophe will be brought home and buried, but they now say that they won't try to bring up the sub's nuclear reactors until sometime next year.

CNN's Walter Rodgers joins us now from the port city of Murmansk with the very latest -- Walt.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Martin.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is just a few miles from here in a closer military city of Severomorsk, and this is going to put all of his political skills to the ultimate test. Mr. Putin, himself, has come under considerable public criticism, great public criticism, for his and the government's handling of the Kursk submarine disaster.

Additionally, he is meeting with some of the relatives of the crew of the doomed submarine Kursk. Many of them were simmering with anger before they met Mr. Putin. It will be interesting to see if they confront him with that same anger.

Mr. Putin arrived in Severomorsk about four hours ago. He was greeted by his admirals at the closed military port, at the airport. He will certainly be grilling them to get the best information he can as to the actual cause of the submarine's sinking.

Then, of course, while he was meeting his admirals, the families of the crew were meeting, and, as I say, simmering, some of them openly challenging the credibility of their government, some were openly pleading for help, "Help us, help us" because they have so Little money now that they have lost their bread winners.

At sea, of course, the British and the Norwegians, who had been spearheading a rescue effort here until it was decided that the crew had all -- but died -- died, the Norwegians and the British were aboard the Norman Pioneer saying farewell to the area above where the Kursk now lies. And the British officer threw a wreath of flowers into the sea, suggesting the bondage -- the bond between all men who go down to the sea in ships -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Walter, the national day of mourning set for tomorrow. What exactly will take place?

RODGERS: In Orthodox churches around this country, there will be memorial services for the crew, the 118 men who drowned about the Kursk. Additionally, flags will be flying at half staff. National television programming will not be carrying light entertainment, comedy, or anything like that; there will be somber broadcasting.

And we're given to believe that President Putin, himself, will be going to sea aboard the heavy cruiser Peter the Great, perhaps lowering a wreath into the waters, where below those 355 feet down, 100 meters down, the crew is lying entombed aboard the Kursk -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: CNN's Walter Rodgers in Murmansk, thank you very much.

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