The legendary Baikonur complex which Moscow is operating on lease from Kazakhstan, may be withdrawn from Russian jurisdiction. The resounding statement was made by head of Kazakhstan's national aerospace agency /Kazkosmos/ Talgat Musabayev.
He stated that Russia and Kazakhstan were in talks over "phased withdrawal from the terms of the Baikonur lease agreement."
"We're discussing the possibility to retreat from the lease terms on the town of Baikonur which might pass under Kazakh jurisdiction," the Rossiiskaya Gazeta quoted Musabayev as saying, reminding that the lease agreement only expires in 2015. The Kazkosmos chief did not tell why Astana decided to cancel the agreement at this time.
Withdrawing the launch pads of the Zenit complex and the town of Baikonur from Russian lease might be the first phase. Zenit is actually the right flank of the cosmodrome, a separate cosmodrome; other countries do not have such a facility. If we withdraw this right wing from lease and enter as full-fledged participants, it will be a big step up by the Republic of Kazakhstan," Musabayev said, "we're trying to set dates. These efforts are coordinated with the Russian federation. They disagree. For example, we set the year 2015, and it does not suit them."
The Kazakhs added that the 1994 agreement which they believe has already "completed its function" should be replaced by "a new comprehensive agreement."
"Of course, it does not imply that Russia and Kazakhstan will stop cooperating or that we have claims to Russia; the issue is not raised thus," the press service of Kazkosmos told the newspaper, "the head of our agency only mentioned the talks over the Zenit complex. We cannot name dates or tell any details."
Moscow reacted sharply to Musabayev's statement, the Kommersant writes. "It is Musabayev's personal interpretation of the essence of the ongoing talks at the level of the leadership of the two countries in the recent months, a source close to the Russian-Kazakh intergovernmental commission told the newspaper. "His words do not reflect the content or tonality of rather productive consultations," he added.
According to the official, Moscow's position is that there should be no unexpected moves or ultimatums. Indeed, the sides are in talks regarding the future of the Baiterek complex, but no strict accords have been reached yet. "These issues are discussed at top level where Musabayev does not belong," the official underscored.
The newspaper reminds that in December 2004, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on parity basis to create the Baiterek complex for launching advance Angara rockets developed by the Khrunichev center. Russia should provide the delivery vehicle, and Kazakhstan should fund the construction of a launch facility at Baikonur. Angara is to become one of delivery vehicles at the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Amur region which is now under construction. It is largely the reason behind Kazkosmos' discontent, as it believes that once Russia commissions the Vostochny cosmodrome and begins to use Angaras there, it will give up the Baikonur lease.
"Baikonur has about a decade to live," a source at the Roskosmos Russian aerospace agency told the Komsomolskaya Pravda: "the moral and technological wear of the equipment is very high. It's far easier to build a new cosmodrome than carry out complete modernization here. Also, Russia will not have to pay lease money for Vostochny. At present, some 30 percent of Baikonur's 60,000-strong population are Russian specialists from the aerospace sector and their families. If the cosmodrome comes under Kazakh jurisdiction, they will return to their homeland. Kazakhstan does not have enough designers, engineers and technicians for full-fledged maintenance of Baikonur."