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Russia and Kazakhstan: What’s Behind the Baikonur Spat?

A Soyuz TMA-05M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in July 2012, en route to the to the International Space Station with three astronauts. (Photo: NASA/Carla Cioffi)

Russia and Kazakhstan seem headed for a showdown over rocket launches at the Baikonur cosmodrome. Although Moscow and Astana are trying to downplay their differences, both sides seem ready to play hardball in what could be complicated and protracted negotiations.

Environmental concerns are ostensibly the catalyst for the discussions. But an important subtext is sovereignty over the Baikonur launch site, which is situated in northern Kazakhstan, but leased by Russia through 2050. And even though both nations are energy-rich, money too is an issue.

A newly created intergovernmental commission is set to convene on January 30 in Moscow to start probing for an agreement. Together with Igor Shuvalov, Vice-Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov is serving as a co-chair of the commission.

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Katya Kumkova is a EurasiaNet staff reporter.

Russia and Kazakhstan: What’s Behind the Baikonur Spat?

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