Senior Russian space industry official held over corruption

23rd October 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Russian court said Friday it has detained a regional director of renowned space company Energia over corruption in the latest scandal to hit the country's fraud-plagued space industry.

Vladimir Ryabov, the head of the company's branch in the city of Samara, on the Volga river, was placed in custody for two months on suspicion of large-scale corruption, a city court told state news agency RIA Novosti.

The court said Ryabov had been detained on October 16 but this only emerged publicly on Friday.

A unnamed law enforcement source told RIA Novosti that Ryabov faces charges of counterfeiting space industry components, resulting in damage of 20 million rubles ($321,000 at the current rate).

Energia's former head, Vitaly Lopota, was put under house arrest in May for allegedly approving unauthorised loans to an international space consortium.

Energia traces its history back to the very dawn of Soviet spaceflight efforts after World War II, and was behind the launch of the first satellite in 1957 and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

But the golden age of the Russian space industry now seems far behind as new projects and initiatives have been mired in corruption.

Russia is currently building a 300-billion-ruble ($4.8 billion) Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East.

The hi-tech facility is meant to reduce Russia's dependence on the Baikonur launch site it rents from neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Yet progress has been slow due to probes into embezzlement of funds and scandals over unpaid workers.

President Vladimir Putin has deplored the delays in the facility's construction, calling earlier this month for the Russian space agency and companies involved in the project to present a report on the setbacks.

Unpaid construction workers at the site have protested over labour conditions and appealed to Putin during his annual call-in show in April.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defence and space industries, pledged at the time that the workers' living and employment conditions would be improved.

© 2015 AFP

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