ALMATY, March 28 Kazakhstan said on Friday it
had suspended rocket and missile tests by Russia at military
testing sites rented by Moscow on Kazakh territory after a
Russian rocket crashed near a village.
A meteorological rocket of the MN-300 type was launched from
the Kapustin Yar testing site in Russia early on Thursday,
Kazakhstan's Defence Ministry said, but exploded near the
village of Shungai in the West Kazakhstan Region.
No casualties or serious damage were reported, the ministry
said. It quoted Russia's Defence Ministry as blaming the
incident on a failure of the rocket's engine system which
prevented it reaching a targeted testing ground in Kazakhstan.
"The Defence Ministry of Kazakhstan has suspended tests at
military fields rented by Russia on the territory of the
Republic of Kazakhstan until the causes of the incident have
been clarified," the Kazakh ministry said in a statement.
The Soviet-era Kapustin Yar test site, in use since the late
1940s, sprawls from Russia's southern Astrakhan Region to
Kazakhstan's Atyrau and West Kazakhstan regions. It tests
various types of missiles and rockets, including
intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Russia and Kazakhstan have close political and economic
ties, but several botched launches of Russian rockets have
caused tensions in the past.
Last July Kazakhstan temporarily banned all launches of
Russia's Proton cargo rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome
rented by Moscow after a rocket of this type carrying three
navigation satellites crashed shortly after lift-off.
That accident led to a large spill of heptyl, a highly toxic
rocket propellant, but there were no reports of casualties.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)