Authorities in Kazakhstan have seized assets belonging to Russia's primary operator of spacecraft launch sites in Baikonur.
Located in Kazakhstan’s southern region of Kyzylorda, Baikonur is famed for the 1961 Soviet launch of the world's first manned space mission, making cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin the first human to reach outer space.
Display picturing Yuri Gagarin at Baikonur Cosmodrome (Nasa/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin, public domain).
According to The Moscow Times, on March 14, Kazakhstan's official bailiffs service banned Russia's Space Infrastructure Center from moving its assets and property out of the country and ordered the company's head to remain in Kazakhstan. This action was taken shortly after the chief of Russia's Roskosmos space agency, Yury Borisov, criticised Kazakh Communications Minister Baghdat Musin for postponing the construction of a new spacecraft launch area at Baikonur. Musin, in response, called Borisov's criticism "a diplomatic mistake".
Musin explained that the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), which has a court that deals with cases on the basis of English law norms and principles, has jurisdiction over the decision to impound the space company's property. He also clarified that the property seized does not include the entire Baikonur complex, but only property of one entity called TsENKI (Center for the Operation of Ground-Based Space Infrastructure). There are reportedly two court cases, one related to TsENKI and the other related to Baiterek.
Roskosmos reportedly has a debt of $29.7mn owed to Baiterek, a Kazakh-Russian joint venture, for work related to estimating ecological damage caused by Soyuz-5 rockets.
Baiterek was established in 2005 to gradually transition to environmentally safe rockets while phasing out Proton rockets, which use highly toxic heptyl fuel. Musin stated that TsENKI was created under the Russian Space Agency in 1994, in accordance with a relevant decree regarding the agreement between Kazakhstan and Russia on the principles and conditions for using the Baikonur cosmodrome. He further added that the management of TsENKI was currently in Kazakhstan, and that procedures should continue at the AIFC court level.
Kazakhstan has impounded the assets and property of Russia's main operator of spacecraft launching sites in Baikonur, due to the Russian state company's debt of $29.7mn to Baiterek, the Kazakh-Russian joint venture, for work related to estimating ecological damage caused by Soyuz-5 rockets.
The Baikonur space complex was originally built in the 1950s as a test range for the Soviet Union's first intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7. Later, the testing range was transformed into a spaceport, with the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, launched from the facility on October 4, 1957. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s mission was launched from Baikonur on April 12, 1961.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has continued to use the Baikonur space complex, leasing the site from Kazakhstan since 1994.