PRAVDA.Ru had an interview with a deputy of the State Duma, deputy chairman of the committee for security, Georgy Maytakov. Maytakov was the chief of the intelligence of one of the divisions of the nuclear submarines, which were based in the Soviet harbour. Being the chief of the Pacific fleet, he repeatedly conducted the military exercises, on submarines too.
Question: Mr.Maytakov, what is your opinion about the events, which happened on board the Kursk? What do you think happened there?
Answer: The governmental commission with Ilya Klebanov at the head has done a lot to find out the reason why it happened, but unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the submarine has now been raised, it is very hard to understand, what caused the tragedy. We will probably never know, why a torpedo exploded. When the tragedy happened, the governmental commission had three versions to consider.
The first one is the collision with a foreign object. The second one – malfunction of a torpedo itself, the third one – the explosion of an old mine, from the times of the World War II. For the time being we know that the fuel blend of a 65-76 torpedo blew up, the governmental commission proved that. It should be mentioned here that there are various recorders inside a torpedo, and they allow to fix the information about the results of the practical shooting. Kerosene is used as fuel in those torpedoes and hydrogen peroxide is used as oxidizing agent. A powerful electric discharge is necessary to ignite the kerosene and oxidizing agent blend. Furthermore, the gaseous hydrogen and oxygen can be produced as a result of the hydrogen peroxide decomposition, and even a spark is enough for a blast. So, there are three conditions necessary for a fuel blend explosion: the destruction of a torpedo, the production of a flammable blend, high-pressure-air, or an electric discharge. These conditions must come altogether at one and the same time.
The torpedo explosion was equal to the blast of 150 kilos of explosive, which pulled out the back lid of the torpedo-tube, wrecked the partition between the first and the second compartments and the people, who were inside the first and the second compartments, died. Another blast took place in 2.5 minutes, a stronger one. Twenty-two torpedoes, situated in the first compartment, exploded.
Q: To what extent, do you think, the submariners of the Kursk were trained? How modern was the Kursk?
A: It was one of the most up-to-date submarines. The submariners are trained very carefully before they go to the sea. The sub was on the first line, which means “cleared for action on the highest level.” All the personnel of the sub undergo a complex of exercises, courses and so on in order to be able to survive. I can give you an example. When we studied at the military school, we had a diving course. When we served at the military vessels or submarines, we also had the diving courses. We were training and exercising all the time, to be able to seal or close up the holes, were taught how to struggle with fire and water – two major reasons, which can make a vessel or a sub sink.
Q: There is a popular Russian movie called “Solitary Sailing,” in which they show the Russian military exercises and the CIA was always trying to watch them. Is the situation different now? Has America become our friend?
A: That is an interesting question – if America has become our friend. There are no friends in big politics. There can be either allies or no allies. Any state is trying to guarantee its own interests. By the way, the movie that you mentioned was to the point. I remember those times: we had an objective not to allow any American aircraft cruiser get closer to a Russian vessel. Nowadays the situation is different. The American submarines, Norway’s Germany’s reconnaissance vessels are near our shores. There are American submarines both in the area of the Barents Sea and in the Far East too.
Q: Do you think there could be an American submarine near the Kursk?
A: The governmental commission has made its conclusions about he possible versions: a collision, mines, torpedo malfunction. But this malfunction may be caused by different reasons. It is not ruled out that there could be a sub there, taking into consideration the fact that there was some object moving very fast, away from the area of the military exercises. I think there could be such a possibility.
Q: What is your opinion about Putin's visit to the relatives of the killed submariners?
A: The fact that he went there to meet the relatives is not president’s business, even if such a horrible catastrophe happened. There are other people to do that. Over 100 people died, but if 100 died in Chechnya – should the president go there too? This is the liability or responsibility of the adequate structures, of the commander-in-chief, of the defense minister. I can understand the president from the human point of view, but it was not reasonable for him to go there as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. This resulted in very serious spending. According to the law about the status of a military man, there should be the adequate insurance allowances paid, depending on the status of a military man. We saw, how the president was attacked on, how intense the conversation with the women was, but all those military men and their relatives received a very serious compensation, the insurance for the death of their relatives.
Q: There is a legend that the sea does not like it, when the people raise the drowned sailors. Do you think it is normal that they have retrieved the submarine and buried the submariners?
A: I said that in the very beginning that it was not good to raise the people from the bottom of the sea. The sea became their cemetery and they had to stay there, like it happens traditionally. But there were different circumstances in this case. The president said they would retrieve the bodies and he kept his promise. There was a need to raise the sub itself in order to try to find out the reasons of the explosion.
Q: Do you think it is possible to raise the first compartment?
A: I think it is not real to raise the first compartment, sine there is no such compartment actually, but only the fragments of it. As we could see, the second compartment was destroyed almost completely too. I guess this story will remain a secret even for the next generation and on. There were a lot of such examples in the past. The sea does not unveil its secrets.
Q: To what extent are the submarines relevant from the strategic point of view?
A: The submarines have always been used for the army purposes. The difference is that they could be moved, in contrast to the land instalments, which could not be used. We moved our missile subs and so did the Americans. Talking about the strategic issue, like you said, the missile submarines are a requisite link of the missile and nuclear triad, the most secret link. You can see and down a plane, but you can never see a submarine. This triad consists of the land, air and underwater constituents.
Q: How good is the equipment at our vessels, bases, to what extent is our authorities attentive to it?
A: Not only the fleet, but the armed forces have fallen into decay over the recent decade due to the absence of the funding. The defense capacity has decreased considerably. This is the general state of the country. It does not allow us to maintain the forces, which were established during the Soviet times. We used to solve global tasks in the ocean, but now we have the goals, which should be solved in the littoral zone.
Q: The newspaper Version wrote that several dishonest officials of St.Petersburg set up a joint venture to sell the ships abroad. What can you say on the score?
A: I do not know if there was a joint venture there. One of the largest vessels – the Minsk and the Novorossiysk were really sold, the media wrote about it, and as far as I remember, those vessels were sent to China. But there was also the information, they were used as entertainment complexes, others say, they were being prepared for the army purposes and would soon travel. If talking about the Pacific fleet – the fleet that I know very well, I can say that there is quite a number of tugboats, which were sold to other countries.
Q: Do you think the president will be able to organize the Pacific fleet and other Russian fleets under the influence of the West, because of the improvement of the relations with the States? We know, there is a pressure exerted on our president.
A: It is precisely registered in the American strategy of the national security that America will do everything not to let any other power, with the exception for the USA, gain control over the resources, the USSR had. America will always keep to its interests – it is its first priority.
Q: So why does Russia have the understated interests?
A: It is about the economic situation in the country: we are unable to maintain the forces to guarantee our security. But on the other hand, the Soviet armed forces were based on the experience of the previous war. The civil war was over, the world war was coming, but the armed forces were organized on the ground of the civil war experience. This is the way our country is.
Q: So the army is totally not ready for the changes in the society?
A: This is one of the most serious issues. Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, the former commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth of Independent States, wrote that the country had collapsed, there was no Soviet Union, but there was the Soviet army left. He allowed to carry out the economic activity in the army at that time, during the period 1991 – 1994. Everything that could be of interest to the people - the uniform, military hardware – everything was sold. There is no place for the economic activity in the army, it should only deal with the military issues and take part in the arrangements, as provided and prescribed by the law.
Georgy Maytakov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov