Russian news-service TASS is reporting that despite “dozens” of criminal cases and serious penalties, there remains on-going corruption concerns at the Vostochny ‘Far East’ Russian rocket launch site.
TASS quotes President Putin saying: “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 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. It is designed to augment and eventually replace activity at Baikonur in Kazakhstan where Russia’s lease on the site will end in 2050.
TASS reports that 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.
The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency Dmitry Rogozin responded on November 12 saying that President Putin’s criticism is absolutely founded. “We also know in detail who did what and are glad that these persons have long been removed from the construction site and are serving their prison terms.”
Russian reports say the level of corruption was extensive. Overall, it is reported that 11 billion rubles were stolen and 3.5 billion rubles were returned. “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,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskoveskov.