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18:04 GMT +3 hours20 December 2014
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Russian president warns space officials over failures

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

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).