Spaceflight Insider

Russian space industry suffers from another scandal

Aleksey Beloborodov, the deputy director general of the Russian state-run RKK Energia. Photo Credit: RIA Novosti

Aleksey Beloborodov, the deputy director general of RKK Energia, which is a state-run company in Russia. Photo Credit: RIA Novosti

On Aug. 19, 2018, the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) informed that three top executives of the state-run rocket manufacturer RKK Energia have been detained for fraud. This is yet another scandal in the Russian space industry in recent years.

The ICR is currently investigating corruption in Russian space companies. The committee suspects several employees of RKK Energia of bribe-taking and arrested the deputy director general of the company, Aleksey Beloborodov, together with his two subordinates on alleged fraud, the IRC said.

The suspects, whose names were not disclosed in the statement, are Oleg Pylnov and Ilya Shenderey—specialists of RKK Energia’s Department of Control and Auditing Activities. Crime Russia reported that they were detained as a result of a sting operation during which marked bills worth tens of thousands of dollars were transferred to them.

According to Crime Russia, the trio was charged with “attempted swindling as part of an organized group or on especially large scale.”

The detainment of RKK Energia’s executives comes a month after Sergey Lemeshevsky, the director general of NPO Lavochkin, was arrested. NPO Lavochkin is a state-owned company that manufactures spacecraft and rocket upper stages. Lemeshevsky was accused of embezzling funds (around $4.8 million) from Roscosmos.

In February 2018, Yury Khrizman, the former head of Dalspetsstroy, a major state contractor responsible for the construction of Vostochny Cosmodrome, was sentenced to jail for mass corruption. He, along with several other ex-employees, was found guilty of wrongdoing during the construction of the spaceport. The investigation estimated the damage to Roscosmos to be about $91.6 million.

The three described cases are the latest in a long list of scandals and launch failures that have plagued the Russian space industry in recent years. Measures undertaken by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government indicate the problem is serious and that the industry may need restructuring.

In July 2015, Roscomos transitioned from a federal space agency to a state-run corporation. The move was made mainly to improve the management system in the space sector and to maximize the production potential of the space industry.

More recently, in late May 2018, Putin appointed Dmitry Rogozin as the head of Roscosmos. He is perceived as Putin’s right hand man, thus the decision suggests how important the fate of space program is for the Russian president.

Rogozin’s appointment marked the fourth change in leadership at Roscosmos within the last decade.

 

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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