Russia & Kazakhstan quid pro quo on Baikonur21 july 2014, 20:53
The first would allow Russia to access new controversial impact area in Kazakhstan, while the second is called to redefine ecological norms for Baikonur and bring them in accordance with the Kazakhstan legislation.
On July 16 the chairman of the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan (KazCosmos) Lieutenant General Talgat Musabayev said that the first agreement concerning the so-called Impact Area Number 120. This is a name given to Kostanai and Aktobe Oblasts in northern Kazakhstan. Opening this area would allow Russia to launch Soyuz rockets from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Previously, Moscow had to go for permission every single time it intended to use the area. So, Russia has been attempting to gain constant access to Number 120 for a while already.
“Russia has requested a new impact zone for rocket stages and we are ready to consider it, but the situation is very complicated. After several recent accidents, people fear more rockets falling. We have received very many letters about it. The MPs also oppose the idea. But we are working on the agreement. Basically, the document is almost ready," Musabayev told the reporters on Wednesday during the Farnborough International Airshow 2014 outside London.
Russia’s Proton-M crashed right after the lift-off from Baikonur a year ago, causing an estimated damage of $90 million.
"We understand the difficulties and are looking for a way out. There are many issues in this respect, including environmental ones," Musabayev added.
The head of KazCosmos also said that apart from new impact area agreement there was another intergovernmental agreement dealing with ecological issues on the agenda. “It also needs to be signed. It is quite possible that the two will be signed simultaneously,” he said.
However, there are serious concerns in regards to opening up of the new impact area. Last month, Vice-Speaker of the Lower Chamber of the Parliament and daughter of the President Dariga Nazarbayeva said that opening up of the impact area could not be allowed because northern Kazakhstan was “a fertile farming land” and the “breadbasket” of Kazakhstan.
However during the same government meeting Talgat Musabayev said that opening up the area was the condition for Russia to sign the agreement extending Kazakhstan’s Ecological Code to Baikonor. Currently, Baikonur is leased by Russia and is not a subject to Kazakhstan’s environmental legislature. He also said that Kazakhstan's attempts to extend its Ecological Code to Baikonur have been meeting "incredible resistance".
It appears that the opposition from Russia is no longer that strong, however. Musabayev’s statement on Wednesday supported the idea that the deal between the two countries may finally be reached. He even specified that the two intergovernmental agreements would be signed this year.
By Dinara Urazova