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Kursk salvage operation gears up

Frans van Seumeren, left, heads the company in charge of the operation  

MOSCOW, Russia -- Salvage experts are gathering ahead of the operation to raise the Kursk nuclear submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea.

The vessel was ripped apart by two unexplained explosions last August, killing all 118 men on board. It sank about 250 kilometres (155 miles) off the Norwegian coast and is currently submerged under 108 metres (355 feet) of water.

According to navy officials in Moscow, Commander Vladimir Kuroyedov has arrived in the northern port of Severomorsk to oversee preparations for lifting the submarine, Reuters news agency reported.

Kuroyedov is due to meet northern fleet commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov to finalise plans to raise the vessel.

The operation is being overseen by Dutch heavy transport company Mammoet, Reuters said.

Kuroyedov will also pay his respects in the town of Vedyayevo, where many relatives of the Kursk victims live.

The exact cause of the Kursk disaster still remains a mystery. Officials say it may have been the result of a torpedo explosion that set off the rest of the arsenal on board, yet the cause of the torpedo blast itself has not been identified.

The move to lift the 20,000-ton vessel from the Arctic seabed comes on the 40th anniversary of the former Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine disaster.

On July 4, 1961, the K-19 -- the country's first nuclear powered submarine -- ran into difficulty when its nuclear cooling system malfunctioned on its maiden voyage.

Eight crew members died from radiation poisoning after exposing themselves to the reactor to prevent a potentially disastrous nuclear explosion.

Sergei Chernyavsky, from the central museum of the Russian navy in St Petersburg, told Reuters the K-19 ballistic missile submarine was dubbed Hiroshima in the wake of the disaster, with reference to the 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city.

• 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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