While the body count of prominent critics of Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin rose again last week, the re-nationalization of Russia’s space industry continued to gather steam with a financial move that shows the benefits of being a friend of the Russian president.
The move involved FundServisBank, which was placed in administration (bankruptcy) under the Deposit Insurance Agency. The move was portrayed as an urgent response to a banking crisis caused by western sanctions over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the fall in value of the ruble.
Or was it?
“From a purely economic point of view the bank has no problems … you start to wonder who is behind this,” spokesman Grigory Belkin told The Moscow Times.
A couple of stories in The Moscow Times provide some insight into the re-nationalization of Russia’s space industry. One story claims the changes will create a giant black hole that will suck in billions of rubles while producing little of value. The other spotlights the firing of a prominent space analyst who dared oppose the changes.
Embattled RSC Energia President Vitaly Lopota, who is the subject of a criminal investigation for alleged abuse of office, was suspended from his post on Friday by the company’s board of directors, ending a seven-year reign over the space company.
The move appears to be part of an effort by Russia’s government to obtain majority control over Energia, of which it owns a 38-percent share. The directors elected Igor Komarov as its new chairman of the board. Komarov is chief of the Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), the government-owned company tasked with consolidating Russia’s sprawling space sector.
While Hercules has the Augean Stables to clean up, Igor Komarov’s task is only slightly less daunting: bringing order, coherence and profitability to a sprawling and bloated Russian space industry that saw its best days 30 years ago.
After four years as president of Russia’s largest car maker, AvtoVAZ, Komarov was brought in last year to head up the new United Rocket and Space Corporation (ACCD), a wholly-owned government entity that will consolidate virtually the entire space industry under state control.
When the consolidation is completed in about two years, ACCD will encompass 48 organizations and 14 companies. Among the major federal state unitary enterprises to be consolidated under the new corporation are Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, NPO Lavochkin and KB Arsenal Design Bureau.
For Roscosmos boss Vladimir Popovkin, the first half of 2013 was a welcome respite in an otherwise difficult tenure. A series of launch vehicles — 15 of them in all — lifted off flawlessly from the Baikonur and Plesetsk cosmodromes. All their payloads reached their intended orbits, exactly as planned. As summer dawned, it looked as though the Russian space program had finally put a string of embarrassing launch failures behind it.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to establish the United Rocket and Space Corporation, an entity designed to consolidate much of the nation’s space industry under one entity while reducing inefficiencies and redundancies.
The move comes after three years of embarrassing and costly launch failures overseen by the Russian space agency Roscomos, which will have its role shifted to contracting, coordination and policy implementation.
Igor Komarov has been appointed the deputy head of the Federal Space Agency. The appointed was made in a one-sentence announcement by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Komarov was most recently head of Russia’s largest automaker, AvtoVAZ. Russian media originally reported that he would be appointed as head of the Unified Rocket and Space Corporation, a new company intended to absorb and consolidate a number of Russian space companies.
Early scans of intermittently inquisitive Russian media outlets give no indication of whether the plan has changed, or if Komarov will simply serve as deputy head of Roscosmos until the rocket and space corporation is formerly established.
[UPDATE: Russian media are now quoting Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying Komarov will work on creating the Unified Rocket and Space Corporation as part of his Roscosmos post.]
Komarov will serve under new Roscosmos head Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko, who served as Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister until he replaced Vladimir Popovkin earlier this month.
The Russia Forum has the following biography of Komarov:
Igor Komarov has been President of AvtoVAZ since August 2009. He joined AvtoVAZ in May 2009 as Executive Vice President of Strategy, Finance, Economic and Corporate Governance.
He began his career as an Engineer at the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Institute of Economic Studies of Scientific and Technological Development. Mr Komarov then held several senior positions in the banking sphere from 1992 to 2002: he was First Vice President of Inkombank, First Vice President of the National Reserve Bank and Deputy Chairman of the BoD at Sberbank. From 2002 to 2008, he was Deputy General Director of Economics and Finance at Norilsk Nickel. In 2008, he took a position as Advisor to the General Director of Rostechnologies.
He graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in Economics.
As earlier reported, Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Ostapenko has replaced Vladimir Popovkin as the head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, as part of a major overhaul of the nation’s space industry. He will head up a beefed up space agency that will oversee an industry that will be consolidated under a single commercial company.
Wikipedia has a biography of Ostapenko that is excerpted below:
“Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko (born 3 May 1957) is a Colonel General in the Russian Military, Deputy Minister of Defence, and former commander of the Aerospace Defence Forces, a position he held from their foundation on 1 December 2011 until his promotion in November 2012. Prior to this he was commander of the Russian Space Forces from 2008, replacing Vladimir Popovkin….