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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Residents Fear Kursk Radiation

ROSLYAKOVO, Far North -- Naval officer Alexei Zaishely picks up a bag and walks with his wife and baby to the bus stop in their remote Arctic village, where the Kursk submarine will be hauled into dry dock later this month.

Zaishely is one of several men sending their families away from run-down Roslyakovo on the Barents Sea, to escape the radiation risk they fear from the return of the 18,000-ton wreck from the seabed.

"I'm not afraid for myself, you see," said Zaishely's wife Nina, as she left to stay with relatives in central Russia. "I fear for my baby, who has his whole life ahead of him and I'm responsible for his health.

"That is why we decided to leave this place and stay away until the situation becomes clear."

Click here to read our special report on the Kursk Tragedy.President Vladimir Putin has pledged to raise the Kursk to allow decent burials for the 118 crewmen who died on board and to try to find out what sank one of Russia's most advanced submarines in August 2000.

He also says the country has an obligation to get the Kursk's two nuclear reactors off the seabed and out of busy fishing lanes.

But the people of tiny Roslyakovo and many of the 380,000 residents along the coast in Murmansk say the salvage jeopardizes their future.

"There have been several emergency situations during ordinary repair work on ships and submarines in dock," Zaishely said. "But to move a submarine with such damage to the dock safely ... I think it could be dangerous."

Officials insist the project is safe and have erected an electronic sign in Roslyakovo to display radiation levels. They say they have a contingency plan to bus residents to Murmansk should any radiation problems arise.

But the locals are unconvinced.

"What that electronic board shows is rubbish," said local Eduard Kononchuk. "The real levels are different."

The Kremlin has promised to make the salvage a model of media openness, after facing withering criticism last year for its confused handling of the nation's worst submarine disaster.

The navy initially took two days to reveal a "malfunction" on board Kursk, then delivered a rash of contradictory statements while refusing to accept foreign help in the attempted rescue of any surviving crew.

A note found on the body of Dmitry Kolesnikov, one of a dozen men whose bodies were brought to the surface last autumn, showed that some of the crew had survived for at least a few hours after two explosions in the Kursk's torpedo bay.

"The people guilty of not saving them should be punished," Kolesnikov's father Roman told Ekho Moskvy radio Wednesday, adding that many victims' relatives had signed a letter to Putin and the Prosecutor General asking them to open a criminal case over the matter.

Some in Roslyakovo said the authorities were taking more risks to try to atone for last year's mistakes.

"We fear for our kids but where can we go?" said resident Anna Zvezdina, adding that not everyone could afford to leave town like the Zaishely family.

Olga Lapina, another local woman, said the future was bleak.

"Soon people in this town will start dying off like flies and no one will tell us the reason."