The Foreign Ministry in Kyrgyzstan has defended the former Soviet republic company that manufactured the torpedo deemed responsible for sinking the Kursk. But officials remained silent about details that could assign blame for the torpedo's damage and its delivery to the Russian nuclear submarine.
The new, untested torpedo was dropped during transport from factory to port, but was loaded aboard the Kursk anyway, according to a recent report published in the Russian daily Izvestiya. It also said crewmembers heard of the incident and were reluctant to set sail with it on board.
The Kursk sank in Barents Sea August 12, 2000, killing all 118 people aboard.
Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry officials said Friday that the article "does not raise doubts that (Kyrgyz manufacturer) Dastan has kept its productive potential and puts out goods that meet all qualifying standards."
However, the ministry did not comment on how the roughly 600-kilgram (1,300-pound) torpedo was handled once it left the factory in Biskek, Kyrgyzstan, and the circumstances that resulted in its being dropped -- and, indeed, whether the fall caused its subsequent explosion -- remain unclear officially.
According to Roman Kolesnikov, the father of lieutenant commander Dmitri Kolesnikov, who died as a result of the Kursk catastrophe, the torpedo was a problem because it was dropped during embarkation.
"One must not put out with such torpedo. But ... evidently somebody wanted it (the Kursk) to be even more menacing," Kolesnikov told Izvestiya.
A Russian governmental commission issued a final report in June that concluded "the cause of the Kursk wreck is a thermal explosion of components of fuel of the torpedo 65-76."
At a press conference in February, the head of the Russian navy said the torpedo's volatile fuel caught fire, apparently triggering the first of two explosions that breached the Kursk's hull. That explosion was rapidly followed by a second, when the remaining ammunition lit off.
Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov said the hydrogen peroxide fuel used in the torpedo was "highly unstable" and its contact with "certain metals could cause unpredictable consequences."
"The confidence of scientists, constructors and the navy leadership in the fuel used in the torpedoes was not justified," he added.
The torpedo has since been withdrawn from use by the Russian navy.
The torpedo 65-76, nine meters (30 feet) long, was designed to attack large surface ships and submarines as well as powerful coastal installations up to 70 kilometers (45 miles) away. It was produced by Dastan, a military and defense company, in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek.
United Press International, July 13, 2002