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article imageRussia jails four for embezzling millions from cosmodrome project

By AFP     Feb 21, 2018 in Crime

Russia on Wednesday jailed three men and a woman for up to 8 years for embezzling state funding worth millions of dollars while working as contractors on the construction of the country's showpiece Vostochny cosmodrome.

The four, who controlled or worked for construction companies, were together found guilty of embezzling 1.3 billion rubles ($23 million) from the national prestige project, in the latest blow to Russia's troubled space industry.

Moscow's Simonovsky district court handed a sentence of 8 years to Sergei Degtyarev, who controlled construction companies involved in building infrastructure at the launch pad in the far eastern Amur region, RIA Novosti state news agency reported.

His daughter, the former general director of a construction firm, was also sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail. Two senior staff members at her company were jailed for six and five-and-a-half years.

Russia's Vostochny, or eastern, cosmodrome was built to relieve Moscow's dependence on Baikonur launch pad which it rents from ex-Soviet Kazakhstan.

It symbolises the country's aspirations to excel in space exploration but its construction saw a litany of problems with delays and unpaid wages. It has also experienced technical problems since going on line.

Its first launch of an unmanned rocket in 2016 was delayed, leading President Vladimir Putin to deliver a public scolding to space officials. The second launch ended in losing contact with a string of satellites.

The budget for Vostochny's construction was estimated at 300-400 billion rubles ($5.3 billion to $7.1 billion at the current exchange rate).

The cosmodrome has a launch pad for Soyuz rockets, meaning it can be used for manned flights in the future.

The latest trial is just one of a number involving financial wrongdoing over the project. Last year an associate of Degtyarev was jailed for four years and other cases are ongoing.

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