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Indigenous Siberian People Protest Russian Rocket Crashes


A Proton M carrier rocket with Nimiq 5 satellite is transported to its launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome.

A Proton M carrier rocket with Nimiq 5 satellite is transported to its launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome.

GORNO-ALTAISK, Russia -- An indigenous people in Siberia is demanding compensation for damage to their health they say was caused by a series of crashes of Russian spacecraft, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Representatives of the Tubalars -- a Turkophone people living in the Altai Republic's Choi district -- claimed on August 30 that Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, should pay compensation for damage done by the August 24 crash of a Proton rocket shortly after it was launched from the Baikonur space complex in neighboring Kazakhstan.

Maria Sakova, a Tubalar leader, told journalists that the rocket used a highly toxic fuel called heptyl. She said after the rocket crashed, many locals experienced respiratory problems and headaches.

Sakova added that Proton rockets regularly crash on Altai territory, and the wreckage has damaged the ecosystem. She said the Tubalars' traditional subsistence farming has been affected, as the heptyl has poisoned cedar cones, one of the Tubalars' staple foods.

The Russian space agency says no debris from the Proton rocket has been found. Local officials deny that any traces of heptyl have been detected either in the soil or in local rivers.

There were some 1,565 Tubalars living in Russia, according to the 2002 census. They are mainly clustered in about 20 villages in the Altai Republic.

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