Kursk Accident Remembered One Year Later

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Weeping family members of the 118 sailors who died on the sunken Kursk submarine marked the first anniversary of the disaster Sunday at the pier where the vessel had been docked, laying carnations at the water's edge and flinging roses into the sea.

Commemorative ceremonies took place near Murmansk, Russia, to pay tribute to the men who lost their lives a year ago when the nuclear sub sank in Arctic waters. The anniversary falls a month before an international operation is set to raise the Kursk from the ocean floor in mid-September. Officials say salvaging the vessel could shed light on the cause of the accident.

In the closed naval town of Vidyayevo, where the Kursk crew was based, goose-stepping soldiers laid wreaths at a monument honoring sailors who died at sea.

In the bright sunshine, a plaque etched with the names of each crewman was unveiled Sunday morning at the pier where the Kursk had been moored. After observing a moment of silence, the relatives laid flowers at the edge of the dock as the victims' names were read over a loudspeaker. Many dabbed tears with a handkerchief. Some threw roses into the ocean.

After the opening ceremony, those in attendance gathered for a service at the town's tiny wooden church. The morning sun gave way to rain, and relatives who couldn't fit inside the church huddled under umbrellas outside the door.

Church services around the country honored the sailors who died in the accident on Aug. 12, 2000. Russian sailors from the Pacific port of Vladivostok to Sevastopol on the Black Sea observed a moment of silence for the Kursk crew.

The government has said the explosion that sank the Kursk was caused by one of its torpedoes. But it remains unclear why the torpedo exploded.

Many Russians have said it was likely a collision with a foreign vessel. Most outside experts blame an internal malfunction.

"For the naval command, in investigating the cause of the sinking of the Kursk, there is nothing more important than achieving the maximum level of clarity," navy commander Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov said in televised remarks at the ceremonies in Vidyayevo.

Russian officials have tried to turn the salvage operation into a show of openness.

During the crisis last year, the government came under strong criticism for releasing contradictory information. Most journalists were kept away from Vidyayevo and other closed military towns, and only a state television crew was allowed to report from the disaster site.

But some fear the salvage operation will reveal little. The submarine's mangled front compartment, where the explosion occurred, is being left on the floor of the Barents Sea as it may contain unexploded torpedoes.

"If the fore section is not raised, we will never know what caused it," Yelena Kolovanova, the sister of a Kursk crew member, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report