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Kursk memorial left on seabed

MURMANSK, Russia -- Deep-sea divers placed a plaque at the site where 118 submariners died when their Kursk sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea.

British members of the Dutch-led international salvage team left the memorial 108 metres (330 feet) below the sea's surface as they carried out safety checks for the ongoing operation.

They were ensuring that the first pontoon was securely attached to the barge which is to transport the Kursk back to dock, the Interfax news agency reported.

The final docking of the Russian submarine, the Kursk, has been delayed for a further two weeks, reports have said.

The Russians last week said the docking of the nuclear submarine would be delayed for a week because of safety fears over the delicate operation.

That timetable has been put back for at least a further week, it was announced on Russian NTV channel on Sunday.

graphic Raising of the Kursk

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NTV quoted the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet, Vyacheslav Popov, as saying it could take a further two weeks to complete the docking operation, while Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said time was no longer a deciding factor.

"Today the time factor does not exist. Security measures are the main thing for this work, because the operation to dock the wreck is unique," Yastrzhembsky was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

The cause of the explosions on board have yet to be proven, despite various theories including the suggestion that a warhead had accidently misfired.

The operation to raise the bulk of the 18,000-tonne hull was promised by Russian President Vladimir Putin after he was initially stung by criticism for staying at his holiday home during the early days of the crisis.

Dutch salvage contractor Mammoet last week completed the painstaking operation of plucking the stricken submarine from the seabed before towing it 100 kilometres (60 miles) towards its docking.

NTV said Mammoet and Russian officials had agreed to limit work to daylight hours for the remainder of the operation for safety reasons.

Bodies retrieved from the wreckage will be handed-over to relatives for burial.

Putin has also said the submarine's recovery could enable experts to look for evidence as to the cause of the accident, which killed all 118 crew.

But investigators say any proof is most likely to have been left in the Kursk's mangled bow which remains on the seabed.

The Kursk is now attached under a giant barge moored near the northern Russian town of Roslyakovo.

The next stage is to hoist it into a half-submerged floating dock.

The floating dock will then finally bring the Kursk into daylight after 14 months under water.

Once in dry dock in Roslyakovo, outside Russia's Arctic port of Murmansk, the submarine will be examined by investigators and forensic experts.

It will be stripped of its arsenal of missiles and sealed.

Afterwards the Kursk will be towed to the nearby town of Snezhnogorsk, where nuclear fuel will be extracted from its reactors and its remains fully dismantled.


• Kursk arrives at Russian port
October 11, 2001
• Kursk submarine raised
October 8, 2001
• Kursk operation enters final stage
October 7, 2001

• Kursk Operation
• The Government of the Russian Federation

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