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Kursk Officer Who Wrote Final Note Buried in St. Petersburg

From Associated Press

“Mustn’t despair.” These words from Lt. Capt. Dmitry Kolesnikov’s note, scribbled in the dark inside the sunken submarine Kursk, were displayed in a black frame Thursday next to his flag-draped coffin.

Funeral services for Kolesnikov, one of 12 sailors whose bodies have been recovered from the wreck by deep-sea divers, were held in his hometown of St. Petersburg.

The recovery of the note helped revive public criticism over the military’s slow response to the Aug. 12 disaster that killed all 118 men aboard.

The note, written as Kolesnikov and other sailors huddled in an intact rear compartment after explosions ripped the front of the submarine apart, showed that at least some sailors survived the initial catastrophe--despite official claims that everyone died almost immediately.

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Kolesnikov’s widow, Olga, sat with his father, a retired submarine sailor, his mother and his brother Alexander, also a submarine officer, in the hall at the Admiralty, the czarist-era naval headquarters and a city landmark for its soaring golden spire.

The note read in part:

“15:45. It’s too dark to write, but I’ll try by touch. It seems there is no chance, 10-20%. We hope that at least someone will read this.

“Here are lists of the personnel of the compartments who are in the ninth [compartment] and will try to get out.

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“Hi to everyone. Mustn’t despair.”

The time, 3:45 p.m., was more than four hours after two explosions sank the vessel. Officials have not yet indicated whether a list of names followed, or released the full text. They have said the note contained lines written to Kolesnikov’s family that they will not release.

Kolesnikov’s mother, Irina, said her son’s death certificate gave the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning. No explanation was given about the source of the gas.

On Thursday, divers halted work cutting into the third section of the submarine after video footage showed massive damage inside that could risk their safety, Northern Fleet spokesman Igor Babenko said. The divers risked puncturing their pressure suits or air tubes if they ventured further.

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