вторник, 28 мая 2019 г.

Russia — Astronomical fraud in the space sector


May 28, 2019

Several corruption scandals eclipse the major projects of the Russian space industry.

Billions flying, officials in prison and a leader fleeing abroad: the Russian space sector is at the heart of astronomical embezzlement that sullies the ambitions of the size of Russia found in space.

For years, Russia has been trying to repair this industry, a source of immense pride in the Soviet era and of which it remains a major world player, but which was ruined after the fall of the USSR and suffered several humiliating failures recently. But corruption scandals continue to explode and eclipse announcements of plans for new rockets or lunar stations.

«Billions are stolen» in the public conglomerate Roscosmos, which brings together the companies of the sector, summed up in mid-May the head of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykine, quoted by the agency Ria Novosti. Investigations have been in progress for at least five years and are far from complete, he added.

Recent episode of this series: in April, the director general of the Institute for Research in the construction of space equipment Yuri Iaskin, left Russia for a European country where he announced his resignation, according to the daily Kommersant. An audit had just been launched within his company and he feared the discovery of malpractices, according to newspaper sources.

Roscosmos confirmed to AFP the resignation of Mr Iaskine, whose company is involved in the development of the Russian satellite navigation system Glonass, supposed to compete with the American GPS, without explaining the reason.

Big splashed projects

Hijackings have particularly affected the two major projects of the sector of the past decade: Glonass and the construction of a new cosmodrome, Vostochny, in the Russian Far East, supposed to replace Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Beyond that, almost all major companies in the sector, including rocket builders Khrounichev and Progress, have been affected by financial scandals, sometimes leading to prison sentences for large-scale fraud.

The Court of Auditors estimated the various financial misappropriations within Roscosmos to 760 billion rubles (more than 10 billion euros) in 2017, which represents nearly 40% of the infringements discovered in all sectors of the Russian economy .

Roscosmos regularly asserts to cooperate with the ongoing investigations. «The eradication of corruption is one of the main objectives of management,» assured the conglomerate to AFP.

In mid-April, President Vladimir Putin called for «a progressive solution to the obvious problems that hinder the development of the space sector»: «The prices and deadlines that are set for carrying out space projects often have no basis» .

More money, more corruption

Redressing the space sector is a matter of prestige for the Kremlin, symbolizing its renewed pride and ability to occupy the top ranks in the world, especially in the context of the new Cold War with the United States.

Ruined in the 1990s, the sector was afloat thanks to foreign commercial contracts. «But there were still executives of a very high professional level and there were fewer accidents during the launches,» said Egorov.

The first module of the International Space Station (ISS), Zarya, was manufactured in Russia and launched in 1998 despite financial difficulties. Paradoxically, the situation deteriorated in the early 2000s, when these problems were resolved. The influx of public funds has fueled fraud and space research has stopped advancing, according to experts.

«An unshakeable ivory tower»

«Today, the space sector works with the principle: give us money and we will launch something … one day,» says Vitali Egorov, author of a popular blog on space, the Green Cat (zelenyikot.com).

Only the ISS is «an unshakeable ivory tower», but rather it plays «a political role» to maintain international cooperation and brings nothing new for scientific research, says the expert.

Analysts said Roscosmos chief executive Dmitry Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister known for his anti-Western statements and appointed a year ago, is struggling to deal with the sector’s problems.

The scientific community criticizes this graduate in journalism for his lack of knowledge of the sector. «He could have been an excellent spokesperson for Roscosmos,» Egorov said, while putting it in perspective: «Even Superman could not have handled this avalanche of problems.»

ROSCOSMOS website: https://www.roscosmos.ru/

S.P. KOROLEV ROCKET AND SPACE CORPORATION «ENERGIA»: https://www.energia.ru/english/

Image, Text, Credits: AFP/ROSCOSMOS/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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