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Russia 'to lift Kursk by September'

A memorial service was held for Kursk victims in November  

MOSCOW, Russia -- A senior Russian official is reported to have pledged to raise the wreck of the nuclear submarine Kursk by late September.

Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov as saying it would take three months to raise the submarine, which sank last August in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 men on board.

The operation would be completed around September 20, said Klebanov, who heads the commission investigating the Kursk tragedy.

Klebanov added that an agreement would be signed on May 20 in St. Petersburg between Russia along with Dutch and Norwegian firms taking part in the lifting operation.

The Russian government is supposed to share the cost, estimated at $70 million, with the Kursk Foundation, an international fund-raising group.

The ITAR-Tass news agency, citing sources, said the foreign firms would help lift all but the first compartment of the submarine, which was most heavily damaged. Only Russians would take part in lifting the first compartment.

The government has not released any official explanation of what caused the disaster.

Most foreign experts say the most likely cause was an internal malfunction, such as a torpedo misfiring, which caused an explosion in a forward compartment. However, the government has not officially ruled out the theory that the Kursk collided with another vessel, possibly a foreign submarine.

Russia has promised since the tragedy to raise the submarine, lying more than 100 metres (330 ft) beneath the surface north of the port of Murmansk.

Twelve bodies were recovered in a salvage operation last year, but conditions were too dangerous to recover more. Fears have been expressed of possible nuclear leaks from the wreck.

The plan to lift the Kursk has provoked controversy in Russia. Some of the crewmen's families have said they would prefer to follow the naval tradition of burying their dead at sea.

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Safety fears prompt Kursk mission
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Second Kursk note tells of fire
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Russian sub stranded on bottom of Barents Sea
August 14, 2000

Kursk Foundation
Russian government (in Russian)
RNS Kursk memorial and information

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