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Putin sacks top Navy commanders for loss of Kursk
By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW, DEC. 2. The Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, on Saturday sacked top Navy commanders for the loss of Kursk, a nuclear submarine, last year.

The missile-carrying submarine sank after two mysterious onboard explosions during naval exercises off the Russian coast in the northern Barants Sea in August 2000, killing all the 118 crew.

The Northern Fleet Commander, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, his Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Mikhail Motsak, and the Submarine Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Oleg Burtsev were demoted in rank, while eight other Admirals and three Senior Captains were dismissed.

The dismissals came hours after the President, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, received a preliminary report on the country's worst-ever naval disaster from the Prosecutor-General. Eventhough the investigation is yet to establish the cause of the catastrophe, it revealed ``grave failings'' in the preparation of the naval war games during which the Kursk sank, the Prosecutor-General, Mr. Vladimir Ustinov, said.

A Russian media report said a fuel-leaking torpedo had been loaded aboard the Kursk before the exercises. Many experts believe it was the explosion of a faulty torpedo that sank the submarine. However, Mr. Putin said that a number of theories, including collision with ``an unidentified submerged object'', were being investigated. Last month, the wreckage of the Kursk was raised from the 100-metre deep seabed and brought for examination.

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