SLUG: 2-268512 Russia - Sub (L only) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: In Russia, details are beginning to emerge about what the final moments were like for sailors aboard the nuclear submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea two months ago. The Russian navy says fire swept through the vessel, and at least some of the (118) victims died of burns and other injuries. V-O-A's Larry James reports from Moscow.

TEXT: A Russian navy spokesman says some of the bodies were badly charred and battered beyond recognition.

Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky told a Russian news agency it appears the explosions that sank the Kursk dislodged equipment throughout the vessel. Some of the victims were severely battered, he said, adding, "They were hit both in the head and in the body."

This is the first official word that fire swept through the Kursk. Thursday, the navy released a portion of a note found on one of the four bodies divers have pulled out of the submarine. It showed that some of the crew survived the explosions that sent the nuclear-powered vessel to the bottom of the Barents Sea.

The note in Lieutenant Captain Dimitry Kolesnikov's pocket said 23 crew members fled from the craft's mid-section through darkened passageways, making their way to a compartment with emergency escape hatches.

"There are 23 people here," the note said. "None of us can get to the surface."

/// OPT /// The note was written sometime during a 100-minute time span on the day the submarine sank [August 12th]. /// END OPT ///

Shortly after the Kursk went down, there was speculation that some of the crew could have survived. Reports said someone or something was tapping on the hull, but the Russian navy's attempts to open an escape hatch failed.

One week after the sub sank, Norwegian divers reached the hull and were able to open it. They found the submarine's interior flooded, and no survivors from the 118-man crew.

/// REST OPT ///

Since divers entered the Kursk on Wednesday, bad weather has delayed further efforts to recover the victims' bodies. (Signed)