A retired Russian admiral has once again alleged that the August 2000 Kursk submarine explosion and sinking was the result of a collision with a NATO submarine, defying the official ruling that the explosion was caused by an explosive propellant that had leaked from a faulty torpedo.

Retired Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, the commander of the Russian Northern Fleet at the time, told the RIA Novosti news agency that three NATO submarines, two U.S. and one British, were monitoring the large Barent Sea naval exercises and one of them was shadowing the Kursk but inadvertently bumped the sub which caused the explosion. 

Admiral Popov had received the brunt of the blame for the bungled and painfully slow rescue effort.

Popov has made this claim before, which flies in the face of the details of Russian’s own investigation. However, this time he added much more detail, although he readily admitted that he had no proof of his allegations. 

Popov insisted that after the Kursk’s collision with the NATO submarine, the NATO submarine sent a distress signal of its own. Conspiracy theorists point to the USS Memphis, an American submarine that docked in Norway soon after the sinking of the Kursk. 

The Kursk sank on August 12, 2000, after two explosions. Both explosions registered on seismographs in Alaska. The first was recorded at about 11:28 am on August 13; it sent the Kursk to the bottom which was only 354 feet beneath the surface. But 135 seconds later, a massive explosion, 250 times larger than the first, rocked the submarine. It was believed by Russian investigators that the first explosion in the forward torpedo room started a massive fire that eventually caused all of the torpedoes to explode. The second explosion measured 4.2 on the Richter scale.

Russian submarine Kursk crew
Officers and crew of the Russian submarine Kursk prior to the sinking. (Russian Navy via the AP)

Most of the 118 crew members were killed instantly, but 23 managed to escape to a rear compartment awaiting help.

The Russian Navy, much like the Soviet one preceding it, was slowed by inefficiency. After several failed attempts to reach the survivors, the Russians waited a week before asking the West for help. By then all of the survivors had died. It was Russia’s worst post-Soviet naval disaster.