Kazakh authorities have impounded property of Russia’s main operator of spacecraft launching sites in Baikonur in the Central Asian nation’s southern region of Qyzylorda.
Kazakhstan’s bailiff service banned Russia’s Space Infrastructure Center from transferring its assets and property out of the country and ordered the entity’s leader to remain in Kazakhstan, The Moscow Times newspaper reported on 14 March.
Kazakhstan’s move to impound the space company’s property came days after the chief of Russia’s Roskosmos space agency, Yury Borisov, publicly criticized Kazakh Communications Minister Baghdat Musin for his team’s decision to postpone the construction of a new spacecraft launch area at Baikonur.
Musin called Borisov’s criticism ” a diplomatic miscalculation.”
The website KZ24 quotes Musin as saying that the decision to impound property is under the jurisdiction of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), the court of which is based on norms and principles of English law.
He also made the distinction that the property impounded does not apply to the property of the entire Baikonur complex, but to one of the entreprises, called TsENKI (Center for the Operation of Ground-Based Space Infrastructure). Reportedly, there are two court cases, one concerning TsENKI and another concerning Bayterek.
Baiterek was created in 2005 to secure the gradual move of launches to ecologically safe rockets while abolishing Proton rockets that use highly toxic heptyl fuel.
TsENKI, Musin said, was established under the Russian Space Agency in 1994 in accordance with a relevant decree concerning the agreement between Kazakhstan and Russia on the principles and conditions for using the Baikonur cosmodrome.
At present, Musin said, the management of the TsENKI company was in Kazakhstan and procedures should continue at the level of the AIFC court,” he added.
The Baikonur space complex was built in the 1950s as a test range for the Soviet Union’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7.
The testing range was subsequently transformed into a spaceport, with the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, launched from the facility on October 4, 1957.
The world’s first manned space mission by Yuri Gagarin was launched from Baikonur on 12 April 1961.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has continued to use the Baikonur space complex, leasing the site from Kazakhstan since 1994.
Trying to reduce its dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome for manned rocket launches, Russia started constructing the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far Eastern Amur region near the Chinese border in 2012.
But that project has been dogged by reports of corruption, with dozens of people involved in the planning and construction of the facility arrested on embezzlement and fraud charges in recent years.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)