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Russia’s Roscosmos Fires Back At Barrage Of Criticism And Whiff Of Scandal

The supermoon is seen behind the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft set on the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Following a string of high-profile incidents, failures, and corruption scandals and allegations, Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, has hit back at its Russian and international critics in a bizarre claim that criticism of the struggling space programme is an “information attack” designed to discredit Roscosmos and its efforts at reforming Russia’s moribund space sector.

Roscosmos spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko said in an interview with Sputnik that Roscosmos “ … has been targeted by an information attack launched by forces in Russia and abroad to create an image of a state corporation ‘devouring’ federal funds and to prevent the country from regaining its leadership in space exploration.”

‘The [Russian space] industry has just started restructuring to create industry-specific industrial holdings – rocket, engine-building, instrument-making. Roscosmos was set in motion,” Ustimenko said. “Perhaps the information attack on us is linked with this. Someone outside and inside the country really does not want Russia to regain leadership in space.”

“They are systematically trying to paint the image of Roscosmos as the biggest debtor, and the industry that ‘devours federal money.’ The goal is to deprive us of [state] support in the calculation of the industry’s budget, which today is almost 20 times less than that of the NASA budget,” Ustimenko continued. Sputnik also noted that he asked for respect for the rocket and space industry from both the public and the media.

These remarks by a senior Roscosmos official come after a prominent veteran of the Soviet space programme, Valeri Ryumin, expressed cynicism to Pravda about Roscosmos’ future plans and ambitions, such as sending cosmonauts to the Moon in the 2020’s.

“On what money?” Ryumin, a former cosmonaut himself, said. “In recent years, the leaders are blowing more smoke than doing anything substantive.”

Ryumin also took aim at Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, saying that, “He’s not a space specialist but a journalist,” and that he, “may be talented and a pretty good organizer, but in order to survive in this business, you need to know the history and have real experience. It takes a lot of time.”

On top of this domestic criticism, Roscosmos is also being audited by the Russian government’s chief auditing body, the Accounts Chamber. The recent finding of serious financial irregularities at Roscosmos, announced by the Chairman of Russia’s Accounts Chamber and the Prosecutor General’s Office, is just one of the incidents leading to concern.

Additionally, Roscosmos’ 2017 net profit was 4.191 billion rubles (U.S.$62.7 million), which is one-and-a-half times higher than the same indicator in 2016, according to its annual report.

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