Tension is mounting on Russia’s most important construction project, a space-rocket launch facility in the far east of the country, with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin threatening to "rip heads off" if sabotage is discovered.
Those who try to steal the people’s money from the spaceport will be locked up– Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister
The first launch of an unmanned rocket is scheduled to take place by the end of this year at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur region, but delays and corruption scandals threaten to push the opening back to next year. Rogozin took personal charge of the project from Russia’s space agency Roscosmos in September last year.
In October the former head of a company involved in building the cosmodrome was arrested and charged with embezzling 1.8 billion rubles ($43m at the time) from the project. In January Rogozin ordered webcams to be installed at the site so the Russian people could see if anyone was slacking.
But after the latest visit, on 15 March, Rogozin approved an extra 32 billion rubles ($512m) to speed up construction, newspaper The Moscow Times reported.
"We have now arrived at a critical moment in the construction [of the cosmodrome]," Rogozin was quoted by news agency RIA Novosti as saying.
It is not clear if the accumulated delay has grown or shrunk, but during his visit Rogozin reportedly dressed down the management of Spetsstroi, the state-owned firm contracted to build the new facility.
Spetsstroi managers will be held "personally and financially responsible" if they fail to finish by 30 November, Rogozin said, demanding that the firm call in all available personnel – accountants included – from across the nation to accelerate construction.
Earlier this month Rogozin was quoted as saying: "I will not allow sabotage, I’ll simply rip heads off," and also: "Those who try to steal the people’s money from the spaceport will be locked up. We will build this cosmodrome."