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Kazakhstan Opens Criminal Probe Into Russian Rocket Crash

The launchpad at the Baikonur cosmodrome (AFP) July 31, 2006 -- Kazakh authorities today said that they have opened a criminal probe into the July 27 crash of a Russian rocket.

Kazakhstan's Emergencies Ministry said the decision was made after experts determined that the area where the rocket fell is polluted with heptyl, a highly toxic fuel. The ministry said heptyl concentration in the scarcely populated territory where the accident occurred is 1,000 times higher than the maximum admissible levels.

Environmentalists say heptyl is a highly poisonous substance widely used in the Russian space industry.

The RS-20 (Dnyepr) rocket crashed 73 seconds after taking off from the Baikonur launchpad. It was carrying several satellites, including what should have been Belarus' first-ever satellite.

The cause of the accident is unknown. Preliminary reports suggest the rocket crashed after its third section detached.

(Kazakhstan Today, Interfax-Kazakhstan)

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