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Russia Promises To Pay Kazakstan

July 14, 1999

ALMATY, Kazakstan (AP) _ Kazakstan agreed Wednesday to let a Russian rocket blast off with supplies for the Mir space station after Moscow promised to pay a $115 million bill for use of the Baikonur launch pad.

The Progress cargo ship carrying food and equipment for Mir will take off Friday, Kazak government spokesman Sergei Sivun said. The deal was reached in talks between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Kazak officials in Astana, the capital of the Central Asian nation. The liftoff originally had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Russian space officials have warned that the three-man Mir crew will have to cut short their stay if Progress doesn’t arrive by July 20.

After that, the Mir will shift into an orbit that can’t be easily reached by the cargo ship. The station will become easily accessible again in another month, but by that time the crew would have run out of food, said Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

The Kazak government banned all launches from Baikonur on July 6, the day after a Proton booster rocket carrying a Russian military satellite exploded shortly after liftoff.

While Kazakstan said the ban was linked to environmental and other damage caused by launches at Baikonur, Russian media have said it was an attempt to force Russia to pay its debt for leasing the cosmodrome.

The Baikonur pad was built when Kazakstan was still part of the Soviet Union. Now Russia has to rent the facility, and relies heavily on it for launches to the Mir and commercial and military satellites.

Russia agreed to pay $50 million of the debt in cash by November and $65 million in goods by next year, Gorbunov said. He could not say what kind of goods would be sent.

Meanwhile, villagers from the area where the Russian satellite crashed last week are demanding to be resettled, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday. About 2,000 residents of Karbyshevka say that no one is buying milk or meat from their farms for fear that it is contaminated with rocket fuel.

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