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DATE=8/16/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIAN SUB (L-3ND UPDATE) NUMBER=2-265549 BYLINE=LAURIE KASSMAN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A British mini-submarine is joining Russian rescue operations in the Barents Sea, after Russian officials asked for help reaching a stranded nuclear powered submarine with 118 sailors on board. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the situation critical. Correspondent Laurie Kassman has the latest from Moscow. TEXT: Four-times rescue ships tried to lower a diving bell to dock with the Kursk. Four-times the operations had to be aborted because of rough seas, strong currents, and poor underwater visibility. Russia's Itar-Tass agency also says one of the three diving bells in the rescue mission was damaged as it was being pulled out of the water. President Vladimir Putin describes the situation as critical. /// PUTIN IN RUSSIAN AND FADE /// But, Mr. Putin defends the rescue operations and says everything that can be done is being done to save the crew and the submarine. A British mini-submarine has been airlifted to Norway and will join the rescue operations. But time is running out. Officials say the oxygen supply on board the Kursk will run out on Friday. Russian officials say there has been no sign of life on board the submarine for several hours, but that did not mean there were no survivors. Rescue operations are being threatened by the deteriorating weather conditions in the Barents Sea. The submarine also is listing sharply, which makes it more complicated to clamp the diving bell onto its cargo hatch so any survivors could be ferried back up to the surface. The submarine has been sitting on the bottom of the Barents Sea, about 100-meters below the surface, since Sunday. Russian officials first blamed the sinking on a collision, Tuesday they said it was caused by an on- board explosion. (SIGNED) NEB/LMK/GE 16-Aug-2000 12:06 PM EDT (16-Aug-2000 1606 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .