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The Kursk will be lifted

Today at a press conference held in the House of the Government of the Russian Federation, Vice Prime-Minister Ilya Klebanov confirmed the decision of the Russian Government to lift the Kursk nuclear submarine at the earliest opportunity, in the Summer of 2001.

Mr Klebanov added that an international consortium of Russian, Dutch, American and Norwegian companies would be given the task of salvaging the Kursk. He confirmed that the primary concern and reason for this operation is the neutralisation of any environmental risk coming from the sunken submarine lying in relatively shallow waters in the Barents Sea, which is biologically active and rich in fish.

Speaking at the conference he said that the salvage of the Kursk in Summer 2001 implies that, in December this year, there must be a complete plan in place. He added that without international co-operation this will be very difficult, if not impossible. For this reason he welcomed the establishment of the Kursk Foundation to co-ordinate the international action.

He confirmed the support of the Russian Government and of President Vladimir Putin for the Kursk Foundation and looked forward to a close collaboration in achieving the common objectives. He noted that the Foundation should be seen as a pilot project for broader co-operation in solving issues of common environmental interest. He welcomed former Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh and former Dutch Defence Minister Willem van Eekelen as Co-Chairmen of the Foundation. He was pleased to note that former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had also joined the Foundation Board.

Speaking on how the operation would be financed, Mr Klebanov told the press conference that the Foundation would co-ordinate the international fundraising effort, while the Russian Government would provide financing from budgetary and non-budgetary sources.

When questioned about the fate of other decommissioned submarines and their nuclear reactors he told the press that the Kursk was a priority matter because there were two nuclear reactors on board over which there was no control.

Foundation Co-Chairman A. Bessmertnykh referred to the Russian-Dutch sponsored feasibility study which is expected to be completed in the next few days. This study will identify how the Kursk can be lifted. He said that the Foundation will guarantee full transparency on the income and expenditures of the Foundation. The Foundation will be advised by two working groups – one on ecological and one on technical matters.

The Foundation notes that the presence of a submarine with two nuclear reactors and heavy weaponry on board, in shallow waters in one of the cleanest, fish rich seas of the world, necessitates the application of the precautionary principle. “Preferably the debate should be on how to prevent any leakage whilst this is still possible, rather than about when and how much radioactivity may leak from the vessel. That would be irreversible.”

The Foundation calls upon the international community and particularly the European institutions to assist both politically and financially in the successful completion of the salvaging of the Kursk.

For further information, please contact David Webber on mobile telephone number +32-475-31.56.56.