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Corrupt officials removed from Vostochny spaceport construction

The Roscosmos chief thus responded to Putin’s harsh criticism of the Vostochny spaceport’s construction
Vostochny spaceport  Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS
Vostochny spaceport
© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

NUR-SULTAN, November 12. /TASS/. Persons involved in corruption schemes during the Vostochny spaceport construction in the Russian Far East have been removed from the project, Head of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday.

The Roscosmos chief thus responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s harsh criticism of the Vostochny spaceport’s construction. The Russian leader said at a government meeting on Monday that criminal cases and jailings had failed to stem theft at the Vostochny spaceport’s construction site.

"The Russian president’s criticism is absolutely founded. Naturally, he is informed about details. We also know in details who did what and are glad that these persons have long been removed from the construction site and are serving their prison terms," Rogozin said, responding to a question about Putin’s criticism of corruption at the Vostochny space center.

The corruption cases relate to 2014 when mass violations were exposed at the construction site, the Roscosmos chief said.

"The construction of the spaceport’s second stage is based on completely different principles. The process has been placed under the treasury’s control and funds are allocated through the treasury’s letter of credit. So far, we have no grounds today to get concerned that money is spent ineffectively. There are no alarming facts either," the Roscosmos chief said.

Russian President Putin said at a government meeting on Monday that dozens of criminal cases and jailings had failed to stem theft at the Vostochny spaceport construction site.

The Russian leader spoke about the need to ensure strict, purposeful and transparent spending of budget funds in the defense sphere and noted that he had numerously made similar demands in other areas, including the construction of Russia’s first civilian spaceport in the Far East.

"It has been stated a hundred times: you must work transparently because large funds are allocated. This project is actually of the national scope! But, despite this, hundreds of millions, hundreds of millions [of rubles] are stolen! Several dozen criminal cases have been opened, the courts have already passed verdicts and some are serving their prison terms. However, things have not been put in order there the way it should have been done," the Russian president said.

A total of 11 billion rubles (about $169 million) were stolen during the construction of the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East and only 3.5 billion rubles ($53.8 million) were returned to the state coffers, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday as he commented on a statement by President Putin about corruption schemes during the Vostochny spaceport construction.

"The president heard a report, a comprehensive report on the Vostochny spaceport, which he cited as an example. This is consolidated information from various departments," the Kremlin spokesman said.

According to Peskov, "at the first stage, 128 criminal cases were opened, which were later consolidated into 32 criminal cases and at the next stage the Investigative Committee singled out 21 cases and transferred them to the court of law and 18 persons were sentenced at the time," Peskov said.

"The Interior Ministry investigated 8 more cases," he added.

Overall, "it was established that 11 billion rubles were stolen and 3.5 billion rubles were returned," the Kremlin spokesman said.

"All in all, 91 billion rubles [$1.4 billion] were allocated for the spaceport’s construction, of which 66 billion rubles [$1.02 billion] have been spent by now and currently the construction of five out of 19 facilities has not been completed," Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman also pointed out that "a total of 32 persons were convicted and the Investigative Committee is currently investigating five more criminal cases."

"This is the consolidated information, which the president cited when he spoke about the inadmissibility of embezzling budget funds that are spent, among other things, on organizing local production [in Russia]," the Kremlin spokesman said.

The Vostochny spaceport in the Amur Region in the Russian Far East is the first national civilian space center. Large-scale construction work to build the spaceport’s infrastructure and technical facilities started in 2012.

The Vostochny spaceport’s construction was accompanied by numerous problems. According to the data of the Prosecutor General’s Office, a total of 17,000 various violations were exposed during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2014-2018 and 140 criminal cases were opened while total damage was estimated at 10 billion rubles ($150 million). Dozens of individuals were convicted under various counts of Russia’s Criminal Code, including former head of Dalspetsstroi (the general contractor for the spaceport’s construction in 2009-2016) Yuri Khrizman.