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Russia agrees deal to raise Kursk

Russia's Mikhail Barskov and Franz Van Seumeren of Mammoet shake on the deal  

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia has signed a deal with a Dutch salvage company to raise its wrecked nuclear submarine, the Kursk.

The vessel, which plunged to the bottom of the Barents Sea last year killing all 118 submariners on board, is scheduled to be lifted this summer in a $70 million (48 million) operation.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the Russian navy that designed the Kursk had signed a contract with Dutch salvage and heavy transport company Mammoet to carry out the mission.

He told the Reuters news agency on Friday: "The preparatory work will begin today and the operation will be in two steps."

The first stage is due to begin in mid-July and be completed around September 10, and a second operation involving the actual lifting of the submarine, is scheduled for between September 10-20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to recover the bodies of those who died from the Kursk, which was ripped apart by two unexplained explosions on August 18 last year.

The deputy commander of Russia's navy, Mikhail Barskov, told NTV national television that Mammoet plans to use a computer-controlled hydraulic lifting system to raise the vessel.

He said: "We think we have minimised the risk as much as possible, and this is the safest way of doing it."

A government commission is investigating three theories on how the Kursk was sunk.

The possibilities that a collision with a foreign submarine, a faulty torpedo explosion or the vessel striking an unexploded World War II mine, are all being considered.

Moscow recovered the bodies of 12 victims last year and has vowed to lift the submarine to prevent possible damage to the environment.

• Russia 'to lift Kursk by September'
May 14, 2001
• Kursk nuclear claim denied
April 5, 2001
• Russia confirms plan to lift Kursk
March 22, 2001
• Torpedo linked to Kursk tragedy
February 13, 2001
• Posthumous award for lost Kursk crew
December 9, 2000
• Second Kursk note tells of fire
November 9, 2000
• Divers recover Kursk bodies
October 30, 2000

• The Kursk Foundation
• The Russian Government
• RNS Kursk Memorial and Information

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