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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Damaged Kursk Area Examined

Engineers preparing to raise the sunken Kursk nuclear submarine have found no unexploded ammunition in the vessel's damaged first compartment, a navy spokesman said Thursday.

The first compartment, which was mangled in the explosion that sank the Kursk and could contain unexploded torpedoes, is to be cut off and left at the bottom of the Barents Sea when the submarine is raised in September.

Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said cameras examining the first compartment this week did not discover any unexploded ammunition, Itar-Tass reported.

The Kursk sank on Aug. 12, 2000, during a training exercise in the Barents Sea off northern Russia, killing all 118 crew members.

An international operation for salvaging the submarine began this week, as engineers used an unmanned, remote-controlled vessel to measure radiation levels and dig out the buried first compartment.

After the compartment is cut off, in a step tentatively set for Aug. 8 Russian and foreign divers will drill holes in the hull and attach steel cables to lift the sub. The cables will be attached to 26 hydraulic lifting units anchored to a giant pontoon, which will be towed to Murmansk.

The Norwegian ship Mayo, which so far has served as a base for the operation, arrived Thursday morning in Norway's Arctic port of Kirkenes, where it will change crews and pick up new equipment, Itar-Tass said, citing the Russian consul in Kirkenes, Igor Bukharkin. The ship was to head back to the Kursk area about 12 hours later, it said.

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday defended the response to the vessel's sinking, saying nothing could have saved the crew members.

He was widely criticized for what many considered a delayed response to the tragedy. Russia waited four days to accept international offers to help rescue any surviving crew members, and Putin did not immediately interrupt his vacation to deal with the tragedy.

"Even if the very first second we had appealed to our foreign colleagues, help would have still come too late. A simple chronology of events would show that," Putin said at a Kremlin news conference.