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Russia issues a $500mln ultimatum to Kazakhstan over Baikonur

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Russia's foreign ministry sent an ultimatum to Kazakhstan, in response to limitation of rocket launches at the cosmodrome of Baikonur located in Kyzylorda Oblast.

If Kazakh authorities do not reconsider their decision, Russia will stop cooperation in all joint space launch projects, writes Izvestiya citing an official note of Foreign Ministry of Russia.

Earlier, Kazakhstan's government adopted 2013 Baikonur Space Launching and Test Launching Plan submitted by Russian side.

Allowed number of launches for Proton-M carrier rockets was reduced to 12 in 2013 [against 14 in 2012].

Besides, it is expected that Soyuz-type space launches using a new booster disposal area will only be allowed after signing a relevant international agreement. 

According to Izvestiya, Russian foreign ministry has already issued an official note to Kazakh side concerning further use of Baikonur cosmodrome.

The document includes a list of measures Russia is ready to take in case Kazakhstan fails to reconsider its decision to limit launches from Baikonur.

"In this situation, Russia is compelled to rethink the expedience of continuing bipartite cooperation in joint projects, including Dnepr Program, joint Baiterek Project and plans to change-over the latter to Zenith boost rockets and a range of others" the note reads.

"Limitation of Proton-M launches in 2013 will jeopardize fulfillment of contractual obligations in five commercial projects, what will result in cancellation of international contracts and a liability to return $500mln to the customers" RosKosmos explained.

Moscow and Astana have together been using Baikonur since 1999.

In 2004 Russian lease of the space base was set to expire in 2050.

Annual lease of the complex costs Russia $115mln plus almost 5bn rubles for the maintenance.

Kazakh foreign minister Erlan Idrissov pays visit to Moscow on January 24-25 to discuss the issues of using Baikonur cosmodrome.

Looking back to 2004, Kazakhstan and Russia agreed to erect Bailterek rocket launch pad for firing Angara boosters.

However, in January 2013, KazKosmos [Kazakh space agency] claimed its participation in the project would be useless in the event Russia decides to build an Angara launch pad in Vostochniy cosmodrome.

Vostochniy cosmodrome is located at a same latitude as Baikonur, and according to Kazakhs this will make the two cosmodromes competitors in commercial rocket launching.

The Dnepr space launch vehicle is created based on RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missiles [also known as SS-18 Satan by NATO].

Ukrainian-Russian-Kazakh company KosmoTras operates space launches using Dnepr since 1999.

Its history includes 17 successful launches placing 62 space modules into orbit.

January 24 2013, 11:52

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