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Putin rebukes Russian space officials over troubled far eastern Cosmodrome

Vostochny Cosmodrome (Dima Ostrovsky/WikiCommons)
September 08, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

During a visit to the often-delayed, corruption-plagued space-launch facility in Russia’s Far East, President Vladimir Putin has told officials he expects a “more responsible attitude” from them.

Meeting on September 6 with Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin and other space officials, Putin said that the capacity of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region “can — and I want to stress, should — be used more seriously.”

The facility near the border with China is intended to reduce Russia’s dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome it rents from Kazakhstan.

Several unmanned launches have taken place from the Vostochny Cosmodrome since 2016. The first manned launch was originally set for last year.

“I expect a more responsible attitude from you and a dynamic pace when organizing work,” Putin told space officials in televised comments, adding that “all the set deadlines…must be maintained.”

Rogozin said the project’s unfinished second phase — a launchpad for the new Angara rocket — was moving according to schedule.

“We have 40 months to go before the deadline,” he said, adding, “Today, there is 100 percent confidence that we will complete this project within this time frame.”

Besides delays, the project, whose construction was estimated at up to 400 billion rubles ($6 billion), has been dogged by evidence of corruption and scandals over unpaid wages to workers.

Several people involved in its planning and construction have been arrested on embezzlement and fraud charges.

Russia’s space program has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years.

In October, a Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight. Both men ejected safely.