Large fragment of Kursk sub recovered

MOSCOW - The Russian navy's salvage mission to recover more wreckage of the Kursk nuclear submarine from the Barents Sea floor has lifted a large fragment of its nose section, navy officials said Monday.

The fragment of the Kursk's nose weighing five metric tons (five-and-half tons) was recovered last week using remote-controlled equipment, Northern Fleet spokesman Capt. Vadim Serga said Monday in a telephone interview.

Other fragments, including a part of a torpedo tube and a high-pressure air cylinder, were raised earlier, Serga said. He added that the salvage team had also raised several buoys left by a Norwegian electronic intelligence ship that Russian officials said was monitoring the Kursk rescue mission.

The Kursk, one of Russia's largest and most advanced submarines, exploded and sank during naval maneuvers in August 2000, killing all 118 people aboard. The bulk of its wreckage was lifted in an international operation last October, allowing prosecutors to retrieve remains of 115 of the crewmen and search the carcass for clues to the disaster's cause.

The Kursk's fore section, mangled by powerful explosions, was sawed off and remained on the sea floor while the rest of the submarine was raised - out of fear that it could break off and destabilize the lifting.

The Russian navy hopes that fragments of the Kursk's nose section will help shed light on the disaster's cause. Officials initially claimed that the Kursk's sinking might have been caused by a collision with a Western submarine, but have since pointed at a flawed practice torpedo as the most likely cause.

The navy has already ordered such weapons removed from service, but the government has not offered a final conclusion about what caused the practice torpedo to explode, detonating other weapons in the bow.

Serga said that a government commission is expected to decide later this week whether it is necessary to raise more fragments of the bow. Once the salvage operation is over, the navy plans to blow up the remaining wreckage of the submarine.