Russia jails space centre manager

Vostochny rocket launch, 28 Apr 16Image copyright

Image caption

After several delays Russia’s first launch at Vostochny took place on Thursday

A court has jailed a construction manager at Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome, a day after the first rocket was launched from the site.

Igor Nesterenko was sentenced to three years and three months in a labour camp for embezzlement. He stole nearly 104.5m roubles (£1.1m; $1.6m), the court in Russia’s far east concluded.

Several companies are being investigated.

President Vladimir Putin had warned that some managers might face jail.

“If their guilt is proven, they will have to change their warm beds at home for plank-beds in prison,” Mr Putin said, commenting on the arrest of four people involved in the project.

He watched the rocket launch on Thursday in the Amur region, near the Russian-Chinese border, 5,500km (3,500 miles) east of Moscow. A last-minute technical hitch had delayed the Soyuz 2.1a, carrying three satellites into orbit.

Unpaid wages

It was Mr Putin’s idea to build a new space port in Russia to avoid any potential political risks of using the old Soviet launch centre at Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Media captionRussia launches first rocket from its new Vostochny cosmodrome

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Russia would continue to use Baikonur to launch manned missions until 2023. Meanwhile, launches from Vostochny will gradually be increased.

Last year dozens of construction workers went on strike at Vostochny, complaining of unpaid wages. Nesterenko is also being prosecuted in connection with the alleged non-payments.

Nesterenko heads Russia’s Pacific Bridge-building Company (TMK) – one of several firms under investigation for suspicious transactions at Vostochny.

The court found that he benefited from a fraudulent scheme run by an associate, Sergei Yudin.

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