SLUG: 2-268250 Russia - Sub (L)cq DATE: NOTE NUMBER:







CONTENT= assignments.neb-wire


//Editors Reissuing to put the correct CR Number on this piece. It should be 2-268250, not 2-268249//

INTRO: Divers have descended to the wreck of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea in August. They are preparing the way for a larger operation to recover the bodies of crewmen who died. Bill Gasperini in Moscow has details.

TEXT: The first aim of the divers is to inspect the submarine before cutting holes in the hull in order to bring out some of the bodies.

Divers from Norway and Russia are taking part in the operation, descending from a special offshore platform.

The initial phase is expected to last several days before the divers try to enter the submarine itself.

Russia's top Navy commander talked to the divers before they began, saying they should not do anything which would endanger their lives.

Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov says the entire recovery operation may be called off if it seems to be too dangerous.

Many experts say the operation is indeed risky. The men must maneuver in extreme cold and darkness about 100 meters down. They also face danger from jagged metal and other debris inside the sub.

There's also danger from explosives which remain on board, as well as the two nuclear reactors which powered the ship.

Many people say the recovery effort is unnecessary and that the 118 crewmen who perished should be left to rest in peace. Even some relatives of the dead crewmembers say the Kursk should be left alone.

The submarine experienced two onboard explosions in August, which caused it to plummet to the bottom.

The extent of damage is severe, raising other questions about whether it will be possible to recover any bodies at all.

Some Russian media commentators have said the government may really be trying to recover documents which contain classified information or certain weapons from a vessel which was once the pride and joy of the Russian navy. (Signed)