MOSCOW – A massive corruption scandal has rocked Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos and has eclipsed its plans to launch new rockets and lunar stations.
With millions of dollars missing and officials in prison or fleeing the country, Russia’s space sector is at the heart of a staggering embezzlement scheme that has dampened ambitions of recovering its Soviet-era greatness.
“Billions (of rubles) are being stolen there, billions,” Alexander Bastrykin, the powerful head of Russia’s Investigative Committee — Russia’s equivalent of the FBI — said in mid-May.
Analysts say Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister said that for years, Moscow has tried to fix the industry that was a source of immense pride in the USSR.
Investigations into corruption at Roscosmos have been ongoing “for around five years and there is no end in sight,” he added.
In the latest controversy, a senior space official appears to have fled Russia during an audit of the research center he headed.
Yury Yaskin, (above right) the director of the Research Institute of Space Instrumentation, fled Russia for a European country in April where he announced his resignation, the Kommersant paper reported.
He feared the discovery of malpractice during an inspection of the institute, according to the newspaper’s sources.
Roscosmos confirmed to AFP that Yaskin had resigned but did not clarify why. His Moscow institute is involved in developing the Russian satellite navigation system GLONASS designed to compete with the American GPS system.
Russia’s Audit Chamber, a parliamentary body of financial control, estimated that 760 billion rubles (around $11.7 million) was misappropriated from Roscosmos in 2017, or nearly 40 percent of the total misappropriated from the entire economy that year.
Roscosmos said that “eradicating corruption” is one of its “primary goals”, adding that it regularly cooperates with investigations by the authorities.
Analysts say Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister known for his anti-Western statements, is struggling to deal with the industry’s problems.
Russia’s scientific community has criticized Rogozin, who is a journalism graduate, for his lack of knowledge of the space sector.
“He probably would have made an excellent spokesman for Roscosmos,” joked Yegorov, adding: “Even Superman could not handle this avalanche of problems.”
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to “progressively resolve the obvious problems that slow down the development of the rocket-space sector.”
“The time and financial frameworks to realize space projects are often unjustified,” the Russian leader said.
Source: AP, AFP