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Divers will recover bodies from Kursk.

Russian and Norwegian divers will start the delicate task of recovering the remains of 118 seamen who died in the Kursk submarine disaster in late September, a Russian government official yesterday.

After meeting President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the operation to raise the submarine itself would probably begin in September 2001. He did not disclose which method was chosen to bring the vessel to the surface.

'It will be very complicated, perhaps one of the most complicated operations on lifting sunken vessels ever carried out in the world,' Klebanov said. 'The technical operation will be fully Russian, while the financial part more than likely will be international.'

Klebanov heads the commission investigating the causes of the August 12 catastrophe, when explosions ripped through the nuclear submarine and it sank to the bottom of the frigid Barents Sea. The government's contradictory statements about the tragedy and its slow reaction to international offers of aid provoked furious criticism.

Putin's government has been under severe pressure from the families of the dead seamen to recover the bodies for burial. However, some experts contend that the explosions would have destroyed most of the bodies, and any remains would be quickly eaten away by corrosive salt water and plankton.

Klebanov said that the diving teams will start cutting holes in the hull of the Kursk late next month. Each team will include two Russians, who will dive to the submarine, and one Norwegian, who will remain inside a diving bell during the recovery operation.

The divers will train for the operation for about a month, and they will work as long as it takes to bring up the remains.

In a joint letter released today, two members of the Russian parliament and the US Congress proposed that their countries work together to prevent future tragedies such as the sinking of the Kursk and two US submarines, the Thresher and the Scorpion, which were lost in the 1960s.

Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the pro-Putin Unity Party, and Pennsylvania Representative Curt Weldon, urged Putin and President Clinton to conclude a 'protocol on resolving extreme situations'.

'We ask you not to delay working out a joint strategic plan, so that the two nations can react as quickly as possible in case of a similar situation and bring the number of human losses to a minimum,' the legislators wrote.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 31, 2000
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