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Kazakhstan lifts ban on Russian rocket launches from Baikonur

RIA Novosti

24/10/2007 17:38 ASTANA, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - Kazakhstan has lifted its ban on launches of Russian Proton-type rockets from its space center in Baikonur, a government spokesperson said Wednesday.

Astana imposed the ban following a September 6 crash of a Proton-M rocket that lifted off from the space center, which Russia rents in the ex-Soviet Central Asian country.

"Prime Minister Karim Masimov has signed a decree lifting the ban," Ainagul Shakirova said.

The Proton is a heavy rocket which uses highly toxic heptyl as fuel. The rocket was carrying almost 219 metric tons of the fuel at the time of the crash. The contaminated zone covers 32,000 hectares of agricultural land.

Kazakh authorities said on October 15 that they had completed decontamination work at the crash site.

The country is seeking 1.5 billion rubles ($60 million) from Russia in compensation for the accident, a Kazakh regional governor announced earlier.

Search teams examined the territory around the crash site and found 119 rocket fragments. Russian experts cleared the area four times, after post-decontamination laboratory tests revealed that the toxic fuel concentration in more than a half of 20 soil samples taken from the site exceeded permitted levels.

The incident was the sixth Russian rocket crash after takeoff from Baikonur.

Last year, a Russian Dnepr rocket crashed on lift off from Baikonur, after which a special commission was formed to assess the resulting environmental damage. On the basis of its findings, Russia paid Kazakhstan $1.1 million in compensation.

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