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Friday, November 03, 2000, updated at 10:48(GMT+8)

Russia Publishes "Kursk" Sailor's Death Note

The Russia military Thursday made public a note of recording the situation in the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk in minutes following deadly violent explosions in the ill-fated boat during a drill in the Barents Sea on August 12.

A large copy of the note set in a black rim was displayed behind glass, close to the coffin of Lieutenant-Captain Dmitry Kolesnikov, at a farewell ceremony for him in the hall of the Navy House in Russia's second biggest city of Saint Petersburg, the officer's hometown, on Thursday.

Kolesnikov, aged 27, was the commander of the Kursk's Seventh compartment -- the vessel's turbine room. His body was removed from the sub last week and was identified first.

The note, a letter to living people, was scrawled by Kolesnikov in his life's last minutes, as he sat in darkness waiting for death or rescue, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

The note, which was found in Kolesnikov's uniform pocket and had been entitled "No need to despair" by one of the dead sailor's family, writes: "...15:45. It is dark to write but I will try by feel. It seems there is no chance, 10 to 20 percent. Let's hope someone will read this."

"Here there are lists of the personnel of the sections who are in the ninth (section) and will try to get out.

Hello to everyone, there is no need for despair," it says.

Kolesnikov's note also shows that around 23 of the crew managed to make their way to the rearmost ninth section, but failed to escape for survival.

After the farewell, the first funeral by relatives of the 118 dead crew, Kolesnikov was buried in a special part of a local cemetery called Heroes' Way to a salute of rifle shots fired in the air and a small parade of navy officers.

Some 1,000 people filed in front of Kolesnikov's coffin before the burial, laying flowers as his relatives sat nearby. His mother sobbed as a military band played somber music.

As the funeral got under way, divers continued efforts to move into the sub's third compartment, a forward section of the wreck, lying 108 meters down on the bed of the Arctic Barents Sea. They have already recovered 12 bodies from a rear compartment.

Last Thursday, the Russian navy said that the last words of the note indicate that at least 23 of the doomed 118-man crew struggled on and made frantic efforts to escape.

Commander of Russia's Navy Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov said the note show a group had sheltered for more than an hour in the aft section on August 12.

The first part of the note, he said, was intended strictly for Kolesnikov's widow.

"The second part was a message left behind telling us what was to be done. The first figure reads 13:15 in normal handwriting, in lines. Apparently, the lights were still working," Kuroyedov said.

"All personnel from sections six, seven and eight have moved to section nine. There are 23 of us. We have made this decision in view of the accident. None of us can get to the surface," the note continues.

The last entry, he said, was all but illegible. It had been written after 13:50, with the last figure unclear. "I am writing in darkness," he quoted the note as saying.

Other accounts of the note spoke of only a single entry, he added.

Two explosions, yet unexplained, sank the Kursk during a naval drill on August 12, killing all 118 crewmembers. The cause of the accident is still unknown,although the Russian military has said it was most likely due to a collision with a Western sub.

Crew lists show 24 men were assigned to sections six to nine of the Kursk, a vessel named after the site of the world's biggest tank battle and a turning point in the Soviet struggle for survival against the Nazi invaders of World War Two.

The finding of the note last week revived the emotions which swept over Russia when the disaster struck and disproved official statements that all the crew had died in the first moments of the worst disaster in the Russian Navy's history.

So far, divers have brought 12 bodies of all 118 deceased sailors out of water and the names of several of them have been published.

In This Section

The Russia military Thursday made public a note of recording the situation in the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk in minutes following deadly violent explosions in the ill-fated boat during a drill in the Barents Sea on August 12.

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