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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigation Opened Into Sinking of Kursk

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Twelve days after the Kursk hit the seafloor, military prosecutors finally opened a criminal investigation Thursday into the submarine accident.

But even so, the prosecutors refused to say exactly what crime they were investigating and continued to spin various theories as to what could have caused the submarine to sink.

The latest theory was officially put forward Thursday by Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev, who said the FSB is investigating whether the nuclear submarine was sunk by Dagestani kamikaze bombers working for the Chechen rebels.

Click here to read our Special Report on the Kursk Tragedy.

Other theories include an encounter with a mine that has been floating in the Barents Sea since World War II and, the military’s favorite scenario, that the Kursk collided with a mysterious foreign submarine.

A duty officer at the Northern Fleet prosecutor’s office would not say what article of the Criminal Code was used to open the formal investigation, or why his office waited so long to act.

The case was opened the day after President Vladimir Putin promised in a televised address that the tragedy would be thoroughly investigated.

In remarks reported by Interfax, Patrushev said two men from Dagestan who were not members of the crew were on board the Kursk. It is unclear whether this increases the death toll from 118 to 120.

"We have been gathering information about them and found no data indicating that they were related to the accident on the nuclear submarine," Patrushev was quoted as saying in Murmansk.

His statement came on the heels of an announcement by Chechen rebel leaders last Saturday that the Kursk sank because of an explosion set off by a Dagestani kamikaze bomber.

Both men — Mamed Gadzhiyev, 42, and Lieutenant Captain Arnold Borisov, 24 — worked at a torpedo-design bureau at the Dagdizel military factory in Kaspiysk, Dagestan, where Gadzhiyev was head of the bureau and Borisov was his deputy.

They were on the Kursk to oversee testing of torpedoes they designed, said factory acting director Rustam Usmanov, who denied they could have intentionally caused the accident.

"These two people were patriots on a sacred mission. They were overseeing [torpedo] tests," Usmanov said by telephone. "Only scum could say that they were kamikaze bombers, and these scum must be drowned in junk."

Usmanov denied a report in Kommersant newspaper that Dagestani FSB officials interrogated his co-workers about Gadzhiyev and Borisov. He said FSB officials came to his office Wednesday to "express their condolences." The Dagestani FSB in Makhachkala denied they had questioned anyone about the Kursk.

Usmanov also denied media speculation that the torpedo being tested was of a new risky design. One torpedo was indeed to have been test-fired, he said, but it was a regular weapon commissioned more than a decade ago.

Western experts have said the most probable explanation for the two explosions recorded by Norwegian seismologists and sonars at the time of the accident was the detonation of one or several of the Kursk’s torpedoes.

Moreover, the Defense Ministry’s official mouthpiece — Krasnaya Zvezda — reported last Friday that it could have been a torpedo detonation that sank the Kursk. The daily quoted a retired Northern Fleet admiral as saying that a few years ago a defense company, which he did not name, had lobbied his fleet to test and commission a new torpedo that would run on liquid fuel after being launched by a stream of gas.

The admiral, who was not identified, said the fleet believed the torpedo was too dangerous to maintain and launch, but he believed it could have been test-fired by the Kursk. The daily newspaper never followed up its own report.

Alexander Pikayev, a military expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said the authorities produced different versions of why the Kursk sank "to shift responsibility for their lack of activity."

When it became clear that the foreign submarine theory was incredible, Pikayev said, the authorities picked up the Chechen theory "to unite the society around them against a new threat from the Caucasus."