Russian navy chief says U.S., Britain blocking deal to avoid sub incidents

Russia's navy chief on Monday accused the United States and Britain of blocking an agreement between the world's leading naval powers to prevent underwater collisions and other incidents.

Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov said that for the past two years Russia and France have been discussing a deal on underwater navigation safety similar to an existing one concerning surface forces, but neither Washington nor London has agreed to start talks on the issue, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Secrecy, which sometimes has nothing to do with security, is the main problem here," said the admiral. The report gave no other details on the proposed agreement.

The Russian nuclear submarine Kursk exploded and sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 during a naval exercise, killing all 118 seamen on board.

Russian navy officials initially pointed the finger at NATO, saying a U.S. submarine might have collided with the Kursk.

But an investigation by military prosecutors concluded in July 2002 that the Kursk had sunk because a leak of volatile torpedo fuel triggered an explosion of the submarine's weaponry.

In the days after the submarine sank, Russia struggled in its rescue efforts to try and save the lives of sailors who might have survived the blast, holed up in the wreckage in an air-pocket. But almost until the very end, Moscow refused offers of help from Western nations, with critics accusing the authorities of obsessive secrecy.

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