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Putin fires Russian space agency chief

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday fired Russian space agency chief Anatoly Perminov after a series of high-profile setbacks in the space programme.

Perminov will be replaced as head of Roskosmos by First Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin, Russian news agencies said, quoting a document signed by Putin and released by the Russian cabinet.

The document said Perminov had reached the maximum age for state employees but there have been clear indications for some time of growing frustration in the government with Roskosmos’ performance.

Russia in December suffered one its most embarrassing space failures in recent times when three navigation satellites crashed into the ocean off Hawaii instead of reaching orbit.

Reports have said that the last straw was when the latest manned launch for the International Space Station was delayed due to a technical problem just two weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight.

Popovkin served at the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan after finishing military academy and headed Russian missile and space defence forces between 2004 and 2008.