Battered Putin orders day of mourning for dead sailors

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President Vladimir Putin has ordered a day of mourning for the 118 dead sailors trapped in their sunken submarine.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a day of mourning for the 118 dead sailors trapped in their sunken submarine.

Sorrow, anger and shock has engulfed Russia following the tragedy, accompanied by a media backlash which puts the blame squarely at the feet of Putin himself.

The Russian press - aware that officials spurned foreign help for days while Russia's own rescue efforts failed - was not in a forgiving mood of the President, who wants to revive Russia as superpower despite clear lack of means.

Nine days after the Kursk sank, it was the Norwegian-led team that finally opened the hatch after less than 24 hours of work. The British LR5 state-of-the-art mini-sub headed home untested.

"What if they had not lied to us?" asked the daily newspaper Izvestia. "What if they had not waited five days to invite the foreigners? What if we had our own equipment? Now it is too late. Those who carried out dive after dive, day and night in the icy waters with the equipment they had, they did all they could. Those who pretended to be a superpower, they will not be excused."

U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen said in Milwaukee the tragedy underscored the need for better training.

"They don't have the rigour in their training regimes like we do. We should be even more dedicated to our training in light of this tragedy."

Putin, once all-but immune to public criticism, has been attacked for failing to interrupt a Black Sea holiday in the midst of the crisis.

"My view is that Putin doesn't like people. Doesn't feel the tragedy of the people. Doesn't feel the soul of the people." Boris Nemtsov, leader of the liberal Union of Right-wing Forces in parliament said.

Russian television paid tribute by displaying the names of the crew, against a background of the navy's blue and white flag, fluttering at half mast over a rolling sea.

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