DATE=8/22/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA SUB / IMPACT NUMBER=5-46888 BYLINE=LAURIE KASSMAN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for 118 sailors who died aboard the submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea 10 days ago. The commander of Russia's Northern Fleet has appealed to the crewmembers' families for forgiveness, and the government has promised compensation. But those gestures have not stemmed rising public anger over the Russian government's handling of this crisis. From Moscow, correspondent Laurie Kassman looks at the political fallout from the Kursk tragedy. TEXT: Sixty-year-old Boris Orekhov is upset Russia took so long to accept foreign help -- not until four days after the Kursk went down [on Saturday, August 12th]. He is also stunned to learn the navy did not have adequate rescue equipment. /// OREKHOV ACT IN RUSSIAN - ESTABLISH & FADE /// "It is a revelation," Mr. Orekhov says, "that we do not have deep-sea divers and other equipment." "Why," he asks, "can Russia produce powerful ships but not the equipment to save them?" Not all Russians could watch foreign television coverage of efforts to reach the sunken submarine, or keep track of all the conflicting statements Russian officials made to the outside world. But 23-year-old Anatoly Musatov, who relied on state media coverage, did not miss the discrepancies: /// MUSATOV ACT IN RUSSIAN - ESTABLISH & FADE /// "At first, Navy officers made statements, and the following day they denied them," he says. "Maybe they were afraid to tell the truth." /// BEGIN OPT /// Andrei Nikolayevich [Eds: no surname] says simply, his government did not do enough. /// ANDREI ACT IN RUSSIAN - ESTABLISH, FADE /// After accidents like this, he says, there is little trust left. /// END OPT /// Defense expert Paul Beaver of the London-based Jane's Defense Weekly, says the Russian navy's reliance on Soviet-style secrecy was part of an effort to cover up the service's inadequacies -- even if that cost human lives. /// BEAVER ACT /// They didn't want the Russian public to know that they were incapable of rescuing these people, that they didn't have the capability. They didn't want them to understand just how vulnerable they were, in terms of their brand- new, twin-hulled submarine. /// END ACT /// Only a few weeks ago, President Putin hailed the nuclear fleet as the symbol of Russia's power. Navy officials want to blame the Kursk accident on a collision, but independent experts suspect an explosion in the submarine's torpedo compartment. Mr. Beaver says the accident underscores the serious deterioration of Russia's military might, and the impact of years of severe budget cuts. /// OPT 2ND BEAVER ACT /// [There is] no doubt that within the Russian nuclear fleet they'll have to do some serious soul-searching, and have to work out what they have to do in the future. They'll have to examine the viability of their weapons systems and they'll have to look at the safety of their nuclear-propulsion systems and their warheads. /// END ACT // END OPT /// It is not only military prestige that has been damaged. Russian political analyst Viktor Kriminiuk says President Putin's prestige has been battered, too. /// KRIMINIUK ACT /// So his problem now is to share responsibility. To share responsibility means that there should be between three, four or maybe a dozen of the brass heads to be fired, sacked. And, of course, that will change his relations with the military, because they won't like it. /// END ACT /// Still, Mr. Kriminiuk does see a positive consequence of the crisis. It could, he says, help solidify a break with the past, with the Soviet style of absolute control and censorship. Independent Russian T-V has not hesitated to show the relatives of the Kursk crewmen publicly venting their anger at top government officials. Newspapers have listed and criticized all the conflicting official statements about the Kursk accident -- from when and how it happened to what the Navy was doing about it. /// 2ND KRIMINIUK ACT /// The fact is that one of the very important aspects of this crisis is the contrast, the striking difference between the attempts of the authorities to behave as if we still have the Soviet regime and, at the same time, the common people and the press don't want to play the same game. /// END ACT /// Analysts like Mr. Kriminiuk say the Kursk disaster could serve as a turning point in Russia's effort to develop a more open society. But they do not expect major political upheavals. In Russia, Mr. Kriminiuk says, real change comes slowly. (Signed) NEB/LMK/WTW/JP 22-Aug-2000 11:23 AM LOC (22-Aug-2000 1523 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .