Russia Denies TV Report that British Submarine Began Rescue Bid
The Russian navy denied a report by private television station NTV that a British mini-submarine began diving down to the crippled Kursk nuclear submarine early Monday.
An NTV correspondent in the nearest port, Murmansk, said earlier that the British LR5 submersible began its descent at around 7:00 am (0300 GMT) to the stricken submarine lying on the bottom of the Barents Sea at a depth of 108 metros (355 feet).
Northern Fleet commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov denied that report in an interview with RTR television.
Meanwhile, Norwegian deep-sea divers have opened the nuclear submarine's rear escape hatch but there was no immediate sign of any of the crew, a Northern Fleet press spokesman said.
Russian officials had said earlier that they believed a body was trapped in the airlock.
The divers returned to the surface to decide on the next move in the rescue operation, spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky said.
Popov said "the next stage will be to open the lower airlock of the escape hatch" which will enable rescuers to get inside the submarine's ninth compartment.
He added that he believed this compartment behind the escape hatch was flooded.
"My personal view is that the compartment is flooded with water," the admiral said.
Popov said that some of the Norwegian divers had accepted to go inside the Kursk to rescue any survivors among the 118 crew.
But "the situation has changed," with the opening of the escape hatch and the rescuers will have to consider of what use LR5 can be, said Popov. The British mini-sub's mission was precisely to open the hatch, he added.
In Norway, authorities confirmed Monday that deep-sea divers had opened an escape hatch to the Kursk.
"The hatch is now open following work done during the night," John Espen Lien, spokesman for the Norwegian Navy, told AFP.
"We did not find a body inside," Lien said.
Norwegian authorities are in direct contact with the team of specialized "saturation" divers working on gaining access to the submarine wreck.
The Kursk is lying at the bottom of the Barents Sea, after two explosions, and a possible collision with an unidentified object, sent the submarine plunging to the sea bed on August 12th - MOSCOW (AFP)
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