Day of tears for Kursk victims
MOSCOW, Russia -- Relatives of the 118 crew who died when the Kursk submarine sank a year ago are remembering their loved ones with a series of ceremonies.
The families observed a moment of silence on Sunday in the small port of Vidyayevo -- where the Kursk submariners were based.
They then filed quietly past a monument which honours all Russian submariners lost at sea, before tossing flowers into the water.
A white motor launch sailed slowly nearby, carrying sailors in dress uniforms who tossed wreaths into the Arctic sea.
At precisely 11.32 a.m, the moment when explosions sank the Kursk, ships belonging to Russia's Northern Fleet lowered their flags to half mast.
All those on board the nuclear submarine perished when the Kursk exploded and sank on August 12 last year.
Another service was held on Sunday in the Serafimovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, where two of the 12 bodies recovered by divers last year are buried.
Irina Kolesnikova, whose son Dmitry is buried in the cemetery, told Reuters: "The sorrow of our loss will never leave our hearts. Every day, every minute, I remember him."
A note that Dmitry had written in his last moments was recovered with his body, proving some members of the crew survived the blasts that sank the Kursk during a training mission.
Dmitry's wife, Olga, clutched a large bouquet of white calla lilies. The note he penned had begun: "Little Olga, I love you."
"In the letter he said we must not despair. But we despair anyway," his mother said.
Ludmila Safonova, mother of Maxim a lieutenant on board the Kursk, was reported by Reuters as telling ORT television at Vidyayevo: "This is the only thing we can do now, to come together and talk, to lay down flowers.
"These places pull us in. We used to come here to visit our son. Now when I see this landscape -- it is painful."
An international team of divers is working on the floor of the Barents Sea, bolting cables to the 150-metre (490 ft) long submarine so that part of it can be hoisted to the surface as part of a $65 million salvage project next month.
Divers, who have finished cutting holes in the outer and inner hulls of the fifth, seventh and eighth compartments, began working on the third and fourth, the ITAR-Tass news agency said. Work on slicing off the fore section could begin on Sunday.
But the bow, where the torpedoes were kept, will not be part of the plans because Russian officials say it is too damaged to be moved. They add it may be recovered in the future.
Yelena Kolovanova, whose brother Mikhail Radionov was aboard the Kursk, said she supported the raising operation, but opposed the Navy's plan to leave the bow on the seabed.
"If the fore section is not raised, we will never know what caused it," she said.
Officials say the explosions that tore apart the Kursk, one of Russia's most advanced vessels, were apparently caused by a torpedo.
But what prompted the torpedo blast remains unclear. Many Russians have said it was likely to have been a collision with a foreign vessel, but other observers say an internal malfunction was the most likely explanation.
Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, commander of the Russian navy and the highest ranking Russian official to attend the ceremony in Vidyayevo, told the mourning families finding out the cause of the sinking remained "task number one."
"It is vitally important for us to know what events killed this fighting ship. Otherwise we will never know the condition of the Russian fleet," he said.
But Kolesnikova told Reuters she has little faith the navy will ever finally reveal what killed her son.
"I want to believe (we will know the cause). But judging by last year, this will be very difficult," she said.
A Web site about the Kursk salvage operation -- www.kursk141.org -- was set up by the Russian government last week and provides regular news conferences and live reports.
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