Russia’s Altai court closes VIP poaching case

A district court in the south Siberian Altai Republic closed a criminal case of illegal hunting of an endangered mountain sheep species due to a statute of limitations, a court spokesman said on Friday.

Three officials were charged with poaching after a helicopter they were traveling in crashed in January 2009, and dead wild rams were spotted in the wreckage. They were acquitted in May, but the republic’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling.

“A termination of criminal proceedings in connection with a statute of limitations has been issued,” the spokesman said.

A helicopter carrying government officials crashed near Chernaya Mountain in Altai, killing seven people, including the Russian president’s envoy to the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin, and an environmental official.

The three survivors, the republic’s deputy prime minister Anatoly Bannykh, deputy chief of a Moscow university, Nikolai Kapranov, and State Duma official and businessman Boris Belinsky, were alleged to be on an illegal hunting expedition for Argali sheep. An investigation into the case was closed twice over the lack of evidence of the suspects’ involvement in poaching.

The Argali sheep is included on Russia’s list of protected species as well as on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list. Hunting wild rams has been forbidden in Russia since 1930.


Russian president warns space officials over failures

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to punish officials responsible for recent failures in the space industry.

“The latest failures [in space industry] seriously harm Russia’s competitiveness,” Medvedev told regional reporters on Saturday. “This means that we need to conduct a serious analysis and punish those responsible.”

He suggested that the punishment could be doled out either in the form of heavy fines or, if the guilt is obvious, in the form of disciplinary or even criminal penalties.

The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes over the last 11 months. In December, 2010, a Proton-M booster rocket failed to put three Glonass-M satellites into orbit.

The launch of a Rokot booster rocket carrying a military geodesic satellite Geo-IK-2 ended in failure in February.

After the first two mishaps, a number of senior space industry officials were fired and Roscosmos’s chief, Anatoly Perminov, was forced to resign.

However, the problems persisted as the aerospace industry failed to manufacture the planned number of spacecraft and incidents with the launches continued.

On August 18, a Russian Proton-M rocket lost a prized Express-AM4 satellite that was designed to provide digital television and secure government communications for Siberia and the Far East.

One week after the Express-AM4 went off course, a Soyuz-U booster malfunctioned, preventing the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft from reaching orbit. Its debris fell in south Siberia’s Altai Republic.

The most recent accident involves the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary probe, which has been stuck in a low-Earth orbit after a successful launch on November 9 and would probably never be recovered.

The loss of Glonass satellites alone cost the state 4.3 billion rubles ($152.2 million).

Glonass-M satellite launch postponed until Sunday

The launch of the Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket with the Glonass-M navigation satellite was postponed until Sunday because of the approaching cyclone, Russia’s Space Forces spokesman Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin said on Saturday.

The launch from the Plesetsk Space Center in northern Russia was scheduled for Saturday, but it has been postponed since the wind force exceeds the characteristics, allowed at the altitude of 7-10 kilometers, Zolotukhin said.

The Space Forces commander, Gen. Oleg Ostapenko dismissed any technical mishaps of the Soyuz carrier rocket.

“All the technical checks were held without flaws,” Ostapenko added.

Glonass is Russia’s answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes over the last nine months, including the loss of three Glonass satellites, a prized Express-AM4 satellite and the fall of the Progress M-12M cargo in south Siberia’s Altai Republic.

The loss of Glonass satellites alone cost the state 4.3 billion rubles ($152.2 million).

Air Crash Averted Following Laser Attack

Air Crash Averted Following Laser Attack

Published: September 28, 2011 (Issue # 1676)

MOSCOW — An Aeroflot plane with 128 people on board nearly crashed while landing in Barnaul last week after a 15-year-old boy directed a laser pointer at the cockpit, news reports said last Friday.

The boy targeted the A-320 plane carrying 120 passengers and eight crew members as it was landing in the airport of the Altai republic’s capital around 6 a.m. Thursday, Interfax reported, citing regional police.

The boy could not sleep and entertained himself with the laser pointer, which he directed at the plane from the window of his room, news site reported.

The unidentified boy told police that he “had not planned to blind the pilot and had only directed the beam at the flashing lights of the airplane.”

The parents of the boy will be fined about 500 rubles ($15) for negligence, the news reports said.

About 50 laser attacks on planes have been reported so far this year, causing the State Duma to consider legislation making the attacks a crime punishable by seven to 10 years in prison.