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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

West to Offer Putin Cash to Raise Kursk

President Vladimir Putin will have the opportunity at an informal European Union-Russia summit next week in Stockholm to resolve a deadlock in plans to raise the Kursk submarine, said the head of the international Kursk Foundation on Wednesday.

The fundraising group — comprising the EU countries, Norway, Japan, Canada and the United States — has agreed to pay half of the estimated $70 million salvage but only if Russia agrees to a cleanup of radioactive sites on land and sea around Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. The Russian government has said nothing publicly about the foundation's demand.

A statement from Putin expressing support for linking the raising of the Kursk to the cleanup could break the deadlock, the foundation's Rio Praaning said by telephone from Brussels.

"I am sure that will be enough for the EU … enough for the world … to understand what is going on and they will be appreciative of it," he said.

Click here to read our special report on the Kursk Tragedy.The foundation proposed linking the salvage to acceptance of the Multilateral Nuclear Environment Program for Russia, which would allow a cleanup at the Kola Peninsula. European countries and the United States have been negotiating with Russia over the program since 1999.

"If we had such a program in place it could be possible to consider assistance to raising the Kursk," said Silvia Kofler, press officer for the European Commission's delegation in Russia.

Privately, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and the navy have told the foundation they support linking funding for the Kursk salvage to acceptance of the MNEPR program, Praaning said. Kommersant, however, reported Tuesday that Moscow opposes the program because it does not want Western specialists to gain access to military information in the course of the cleanup.

The Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea on Aug. 12, killing all 118 on board, has two nuclear reactors and military weapons on board. The government has promised to raise the submarine this year.

Klebanov said Monday that the salvage operation would be conducted in August or September. But Praaning said this was too late and preparations should begin this week. There is no barge suitable for transporting the Kursk to port and one must be prepared well before attempts are made to raise the submarine, he said.

Interfax quoted Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying Wednesday on Ekho Moskvy radio that 500 million rubles ($17.4 million) and $30 million of federal funds will be made available. Extra funds will be found if Western nations do not contribute, the report said.

However, the Duma later said if Russia has to bear the full cost of raising the sub, it would be the government's fault, Interfax reported. Deputies voted almost unanimously to send a request to the government to urgently resolve the financial issues of the salvage, Interfax reported.

Igor Kudrik, a researcher at the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, said that Russian politicians have been reluctant to mention MNEPR because it had been under discussion for so long with no visible results. "It's a kind of embarrassment," Kudrik said by telephone from Oslo.