Its been exactly 15 years since the worst tragedy in the history of the Russian Navy. What lessons have been learnt from the “Kursk” demise and what are the dreams among the children of the deceased submariners – in Alexey Mikhalev’s report.
Yuriy Zinchuk, host: “This week marks 15 years since the demise of the “Kursk” submarine. Commemorative vigils were held at Serafimovskoye cemetery and Nikolo-Bogoyavlenskiy Cathedral. Since August 2015, St. Petersburg has been inseparably connected to the distant Vidyaevo. The tragedy occurred during a routine training drill, 175 kilometers from Severomorsk. But St. Petersburg and the “Rubin” design bureau became sort of crisis headquarters, where a unique operation to bring the sunk submarine and bodies of staff to the surface was conceived. 118 bodies of submariners. Military investigators have already stated that the catastrophe happened because of an unsanctioned explosion of a so-called peroxide torpedo. It is called peroxide because it uses the mighty mixture of nitrogen peroxide and kerosene as its fuel. The explosion detonated the entire ammunition on board. It has not been established why the peroxide torpedo went off. The whole country remembers the words of 27-year-old captain-lieutenant Dmitriy Kolesnikov, which became the symbol of our sailors’ bravery. It started with “Its dark to write here, but I’ll try” and ended with “Hi all, there’s no need to despair”. What has changed in 15 years? What are the rescue means that our fleet has? What lessons have we learnt from that tragedy? And what do children of the deceased sailors dream of today? All that in a special report by our observer Alexey Mikhalev”
Happy son and his mother, an officer’s coat on their shoulders. The joy caused by a dream come true – the family tradition and naval dynasty is alive. This is just a memory of the years spent in school. What came later was a whole life of a submariner. Sergey Erakhtin was luckier than many – he had golden epaulets and a wonderful daughter.
Kristina Erakhtina was merely 18 months when her father died in the “Kursk” tragedy. Turns out that is enough.
Kristina Erakhtina, daughter of Lieutenant Sergey Erakhtin: “I remember my day. How he played with me”
Marina Mityaeva had spent more than 20 years raising her son. But barely managed to see him as an adult, who achieved his dream.
Marina Mityaeva, mother of Lieutenant Alexey Mityaev: “I almost didn’t see my son in an officer’s uniform. Only at graduation. That’s why my life has become empty”.
Vyacheslav Shavinskiy is an experienced submariner, from a family of sailors. He recalls when he tried to influence his son’s decisions – when he deliberated whether he should stay at “Kursk”.
Vyacheslav Shavinskiy, father of rank III captain Ilya Shavinskiy: “I regret that he didn’t listen to me. The offered him a promotion, but he didn’t take it. This is fate”
They come to Serafimovskoye cemetery every week. One may think that this is a get-together of close relatives. The last 15 years have not made the pain any easier. Dmitriy Kolesnikov’s tombstone still has no date of death – relatives believe that the submariners did not die instantly. Igor Kurdin does not share the same view, having been trying to find an answer to a different question – how did it happen so that there were no rescue boats close to the crash site, whilst they should have been there because of a training drill?
Igor Kurdin, chairman of St. Petersburg sailors and divers club: “The only operational vessel – “Mikhail Rudnitskiy” – suited for rescuing sunken submarines was docked at Severomorsk harbor, while its commander went out to gather mushrooms”
The rescue operation has been one of the most painful subjects in the 15 years. Including for those who took part in it in the first days, relentlessly but unsuccessfully trying to get inside Section 9 of the submarine. And then bringing the bodies to the surface.
Andrey Zvyagintsev, participant of the “Kursk” rescue operation: “Both we and our command were hoping that we’ll be able to bring wounded, but alive sailors to the surface”
It emerged that since 1989 there hasn’t been a single vessel in the country designated for submarine rescue operations. Only a few days ago, the state-of-the-art rescue ship “Igor Belousov”, built at Admiralteyskie docks, set off from St. Petersburg to the Atlantic for field testing. It is equipped with a helipad, an air chamber which can take divers to the depth of 450 meters, deep-water “Bester” gadget which can clear rubble and cut ropes, barometric complex and surgery rooms. This ship has no equal in the world.
Alexey Mikhalev, reporter: “However, “Igor Belousov” is a sign of the modern times, the post-Kursk epoch. And here is the tragedy’s coeval. The temple of Milyushaya Ikona Bozhiei Materi has been returned to its owner, the Russian Orthodox Church. For 80 years before that, it had been housing the country’s oldest submariners training facility – with a training pool, barometric chamber and a colossal shaft to train emergency resurfacing. Only the demise of Kursk made people think that all this was morally obsolete”
These are the shots from the movie “72 meters”, filmed after the book with a same name by St. Petersburg writer Alexander Pokrovskiy. The story is full of mystic coincidences – the boat sinks at 100 meters, the book was written in August – a year before the tragedy. Pokrovskiy believes that the tragedy happened due to protocol neglect. The staff of “Kursk” was not trained to fire torpedoes of such type.
Alexander Pokrovskiy, writer, submariner, reserve rank II Captain: “They are promising a mystery and a sensation. But the main mystery is why they don’t take care of their people. If its said in the protocol that service has to be this and that, the command has no right to violate it”.
And only the lives of mothers haven’t changed in 15 years. We see heroic men pictured on tombstones, but they are still their babies to them.
Lidiya Panarina, mother of Lieutenant Andrey Panarin: “Every time he visits me in a dream, he always wears a parade uniform and always smiling. Believers say it’s a good thing. Meaning that he died with no pain”
Marina Mityaeva, mother of lietenant Alexey Mityaev: “I feel heavy every time its August. I feel guilty that I let my son take this job, that I didn’t keep him safe”
Alexey Mikhalev, reporter: “What would you talk about with him?”
Kristina Erakhtina, daughter of lieutenant Sergey Erakhtin: “With my dad? All the things that kids talk about with their dads. I missed those as a kid”
It’s a strong enough reason to make sure that the “Kursk” tragedy never happens again, anywhere. And to keep the memory of the dead alive – irrespective of official ceremonies and sad anniversaries.