Russian Admiral Again Alleges NATO Submarine Responsible for 2000 Kursk Explosion

A retired Russian admiral alleged that the 2000 Kursk submarine explosion was the result of a collision with a NATO submarine, going against the official ruling that the explosion was caused by a faulty torpedo.

The Kursk sank on August 12, 2000 after two explosions. Most of the 118 crewmembers were killed instantly, but 23 managed to escape to a rear compartment to wait for help. However, the Russian navy waited hours before launching the search, refusing to accept Western help. It took a week for them to accept outside help, at which point it was too late to save anyone.

According to the Associated Press, Retired Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, who was commander of Russia's Northern Fleet at the time of the explosion, received a brunt of the blame for the slow response to the catastrophe.

Popov told RIA Novosti, a state news agency, Monday that the Kursk sank during its naval maneuvers because a NATO submarine that was shadowing it at a close distance accidentally bumped into it.

This is not the first time Popov has made this claim. He didn't identify the submarine and acknowledged that he had no proof to back his statements up. An official probe shortly following the explosion concluded that it was caused by an explosive propellant that leaked from a faulty torpedo.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Kursk, submarine, Russian, crew
All 118 members of the nuclear submarine Kursk's crew died in an explosion on August 12, 2000. Here, the crew members stand on the ship deck during the naval parade in Severomorsk, Russia, July 30, 2000. File/AP Photo

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Popov's claim and pointed to the original probe's conclusion.

Popov has made the collision claim before, but his latest statement was more outspoken and detailed.

Russian media reports have claimed that two U.S. submarines and a British sub were spotted in the area near the Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea when the Kursk disaster happened.

As the submarine sank to the bottom of the sea, only about 350 feet (108 meters) below the surface, 23 men were able to flee to a rear compartment, where they waited for help.

The disoriented Russian navy command turned down offers of Western assistance, stubbornly sending Russian mini-submarines to make repeated futile attempts to hook onto the submarine's escape hatch. After a week, Russia finally invited Norwegian divers and it took them just hours to open the hatch, but by then it was too late to save the remaining crew.

After the catastrophe, some navy officials said the crew members who survived the blast might have been alive for three days, but the investigators eventually concluded that all of them died of carbon monoxide poisoning within eight hours of the blasts—long before any help could arrive.

The government's bungled handling of the rescue effort shook the nation and dented President Vladimir Putin's prestige.

The Kursk's wreckage was lifted in October 2001, allowing the investigators to retrieve 115 bodies and search the mangled hull for clues about the cause.

Kursk, submarine, explosion
Admiral Retired Vyacheslav Popov has alleged in an interview released on November 22, that the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster was caused by a collision with a NATO sub, an unproven claim that defies the official conclusion that the country's worst post-Soviet naval catastrophe was triggered by a faulty torpedo. Above, the Kursk travels in the Barents Sea near Severomorsk, Russia, in this 1999 photo. File/AP Photo