The Guardian August 30, 2000

Kursk disaster: how, who, why?

The following is an abridged article from Red Star (22/8/00) the 
Russian army newspaper. The author of the article seeks answers to the 
question: What precisely caused the crash of the newest and the most modern 
submarine in the world? He does this by interviewing an admiral from the 
ranks of the submarinists, Anatoly Shtyrov, who served in the Northern 
fleet and faced many critical situations during the Cold War, and Captain 
Ephanov, the commander of the Smolensk, a submarine similar to the 

Q: Anatoly, doesn't this story with the Kursk remind 
you of another tragedy  with the submarine K-129 back 
in 1968? 

Anatoly: Not only reminds  it simply struck me with the similarity of 
the scenarios of both these tragedies. Look for yourself: in 1968, several 
days after the disappearance in the Northern Pacific of our submarine an 
American submarine Swordfish comes into the Japanese port of 
Yokosuka with a badly damaged fence of the deck cabin.

They carry out "plastic surgery" virtually immediately after its arrival. 
Thereafter it returns back to its base and disappears from our vision for a 
year and a half.

That's how long it really took to repair the damage. Written statements 
were taken from its crew to keep silent about what happened. 

Almost immediately the Pentagon launched its own "version" of the events, 
according to which "the Russian submarine had an explosion of an 
accumulator battery on board"!

I can tell you with confidence that in all history of submarines not a 
single submarine has lost its hermetic seal after an explosion of a 

Besides, the pressure from the outside of the submarine acts considerably 
against the pressure of an internal explosion. That should also be taken 
into consideration if you speak about the possibility of an internal 
explosion as the reason for the Kursk tragedy.

Today it is exactly the same as back in 1968: the Kursk is at the 
bottom of the sea, on its rear, with a characteristic hole on one side, 
typical for an external hit. The hole is of external origin according to 
the information of the Government's Commission.

Just as it was on the K-129, the Kursk's periscope and other 
parts which can be moved out, are out.

Just as was the case with the Swordfish back in 1968, a NATO nuclear 
submarine has demanded help in a Norwegian port, one of those foreign 
submarines that were in the area of the exercises of the Russian Northern 
fleet at the time.

And just as it was back in 1968, the Pentagon immediately started speaking 
about "an internal explosion" on the Russian submarine  ... Familiar!

There wasn't just "one click sound" that was registered by, among others, 
our own naval vessel Pyort Velikiy.

There were two ENORMOUS HITS, with an interval of two minutes and 12 
seconds between them. Wouldn't a collision of two colossal submarines, one 
of 18,000 tons and another one of at least 6,000 tons, be registered like 

Wouldn't the hitting of the sea floor by our sub two minutes and 12 seconds 
later be registered as this second seismic signal?

Q: The Russian NTV station (the most pro-Western TV station in Russia) 
has reported an American version that on the Kursk a torpedo that 
wasn't fully launched started to burn and, because of this, two other 
torpedoes in the neighbouring section exploded.

Cpt Ephanov: That is complete and utter nonsense. Nobody uses real 
torpedoes during exercises, only special ones, that do not have explosives 
in their head part, only measuring apparatus.

The American experts know it very well. Only children don't know that. It 
is the mass public that NATO wants to have believe their version  "again 
those Russians have exploded something! They always have these explosions -
- in Chernobyl, in the streets of Moscow, etc..."

Another important thing is that the Kursk was found with its 
periscope up. Today's nuclear submarines, and even the diesel ones, 
do not fire when their periscope is up. That only happened during 

Q. There are rumors that we were testing some top secret weapons? 

Cpt Ephanov: Who would test such weapons during regular exercises? 
There are special areas for that in our "closed", internal waters.

A Shtyrov: Every rumour has its author. And all those "versions of 
the independent" experts are an old and well tested weapon in the 
information war, in the war for the minds of the people, for their moods 
and beliefs.

The version of an "internal explosion" suits perfectly the NATO generals  
"you blew it yourself, so sort it out for yourself  we aren't involved in 
any bloodshed". 

But the US has officially confirmed that there were at least two American 
and one British submarines near the area of the exercises at the time.

They claim that the distance between them and the Kursk was 200 
miles. About the distance of 200 miles  that is said simply for the mass 

Being at such a distance they could not fulfill what they came into the 
area at this time to do  to obtain technical and the hydroacoustical 
intelligence and to "keep an eye" on our submarines at the distance of a 
torpedo hit.

In reality, and that can be confirmed by any commander who has sailed the 
Atlantic, the distance between the submarines in such situations is often 
less than one kilometre.

Some foreign commanders "show-off" to impress their crews and their bosses 
by diving under the targeted submarine.

These "show-offs" could have cost the lives of the K-129 and, most 
probably, of the K-219 in 1986, when the American nuclear submarine 
Augusta was "fooling around" it in the sea.

This case is reported in the recent American documentary book Hostile 
Waters by Cpt Peter Hoohthausen and officers R Alan White and Igor 

Q: Anatoly, I expect some would ask the question: didn't our 
submarine hear that they were being followed? Why couldn't they move 
aside or prevent the collision?

A Shtyrov: Imagine two airplanes without illumination. They are 
following each other blindly.

The pilots of the first plane only suspect that they are being followed, 
but they can't hear the other plane because of the noise of their own 
engines. In order to hear it they would need to step aside quickly and 

All commanders of Russian and American submarines are obliged from time to 
time to move aside from their course in order to listen to the area which 
is normally unreachable by their acoustics because of their own motor 

The submarine that is following, is unable to predict such a move. How 
would such a manoeuvre end?

The distance of the following vessel isn't that big and the speed is about 
15-20 knots (30-40 km/h). There are no brakes under water.

Both "the hunter" and "the target" are not turning on their hydrolocators 
in order not to reveal themselves. Under such conditions collisions happen.

Q: The Russian TV reporter from the main Russian RTR channel, 
Arkady Mamontov, has reported that a rescue buoy of foreign origin 
was picked up by the sailors of the Russian vessel Pyotr Velikiy.

A Shtyrov:  That is very important information. All submarines carry 
rescue buoys on board. There should be a number or the name of the 
submarine on this buoy, there should be information to which state it 
belongs. But, nobody goes on an intelligence operation with documents in 
his pocket.

Q: It looks like a car crash with a "hit-and-run" situation, where the 
hitting car has left its licence plate at the scene. Can't we trace it 
based on that?

A Shtyrov:  Try it. In the first place, the numbers are deliberately 
washed off. In the second place, they will claim that the buoy was simply 
"brought to the area by the current" and that it was lost 100 miles away 
from the area of the accident during a storm.

Q: OK, but if the collision was so big, that means that the Western 
submarine must be also damaged ...

A Shtyrov: Yes, and that will be impossible to hide. But it will be 
perfectly possible to declare that this damage was received in another part 
of the world during a collision with an underwater rock ...

"Who is not caught red-handed, is not a thief", as they say in Russia. But 
if we discovered another damaged submarine at the sea bottom near the 
Kursk  that would be a different kettle of fish.

Q: But how did it survive while ours sank?

A Shtyrov: Have you tried to hit two Easter eggs together with the nose 
of one into the side of the other? You will break the one hit side-on for 

It is similar with submarines. The nose is much stronger than the sides. 
More than that, the Kursk was hit at its most vulnerable place, 
between the torpedo compartment and the living compartment.

It is important to remember that all the previous collisions of the 
Soviet/Russian submarines with American ones happened precisely this way 
 by a hit on the side. 

It is also important to underline that in all history the American 
side has never confessed that it participated in those events, despite 
not only damage to their fleet, but even parts of metal of their 
submarines being jammed in the body of ours!

Q: Do you expect the guilty side to admit the fact of its collision 
with the Kursk?

A Shtyrov: I don't think so after all the attention of the world on the 
rescue operation and the agony of the Russian submarine. To confess this 
would be too brave a step for them. It's much easier to deny everything  
just the way it was with the K-129.

I can say that until the investigation is completed we will not put point 
the blame at anybody ... But according to all the information that we have 
at the moment, we can only conclude this logical chain.

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