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Four More Jailed For Corruption At Cosmodrome Project In Russia's Far East

The Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk in Russia's Far East.
The Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk in Russia's Far East.

A Russian court has sentenced four people to lengthy prison terms after finding them guilty of embezzling 400 million rubles ($5.6 million) during the construction of the country’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East.

The Investigative Committee said on November 12 that the four former executives and experts from construction companies -- Yevgeny Yermolayev, Andrei Zakharov, Olga Zugayeva, and Sergei Polivanov -- were handed prison terms of between four and 5 1/2 years.

All of the defendants had pleaded not guilty.

A fifth person charged in the case, Vyacheslav Fatkullin, remains at large, the Investigative Committee's statement said.

The Vostochny project in the Amur region near the Chinese border was intended to reduce Russia's dependence on the Soviet-era Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for manned rocket launches. But the project has been dogged by reports of corruption, with dozens of people involved in the planning and construction of the facility arrested on embezzlement and fraud charges in recent years.

The construction of the new cosmodrome started in 2012. In 2019, a Kremlin spokesman said that 11 billion rubles ($154.2 million) had been embezzled during the building process.

Prosecutors said in late 2019 that 163 probes had been launched against individuals involved in the construction, adding that about 60 persons involved in the project had been convicted.

The first launch at Vostochny occurred in April 2016, but only a few other attempts have taken place since. Construction at the site continues.