Kazakhstani official Yuri Bogatyrev, chairman of the Karaganda region’s commission to investigate the recent crash of the Russian Proton rocket, has committed suicide. Bogatyrev, 33, was also the deputy akim (head of administration) of that region, over which the rocket exploded on July 5, minutes after takeoff from the Baikonur cosmodrome (see the Monitor, July 12-13, 15-16). The Karaganda investigative commission is subordinated to Kazakhstan’s special governmental commission under Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, which is tasked to assess the overall damage to the country from that accident.
Bogatyrev shot himself on July 23, one day after the governmental commission had assessed the damage to the country at a risible 38 million tenge, equivalent to US$600,000. The Russian side has accepted this assessment. The amount does not include “moral damages” requested by the Karaganda region for the residents of Karkarali district, where the rocket debris fell and toxic fuel seeped into land and water. The Russian side is, however, not taking that request into consideration, and Kazakhstan’s governmental commission has officially accepted the Russian finding that the crash did not cause ecological damage. Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor General Yuri Khitrin has ruled out any connection between Bogatyrev’s suicide and the controversy over the rocket crash.
Meanwhile, the leadership of Kazakhstan no longer addresses the issue publicly. Astana has also accepted a further deferral of overdue Russian rental payments for the use of the Baikonur cosmodrome. Kazakhstan hopes, however, to raise the issue of updating in its favor the terms of the rental contract at an upcoming round of negotiations with the Russian government.
In a related development, Kazakhstan’s customs police has arrested a Russian Air Force captain whom it caught in the act of trying to smuggle a small container with nuclear fuel out of the country. The fuel was believed to have been stolen from Baikonur, where the Russian officer is employed (Khabar, Itar-Tass, AP, July 23-26).
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