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KOROLEV, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia’s Federal Space Agency has initiated the dismissal of Yuri Urlichich, who headed a Glonass project contractor, the space agency’s head Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday.
Urlichich lost his post of the scandal-hit project’s chief designer on November 11.
"We have sent documents to the Economic Development Ministry, requesting to relieve Urlichich of his duties in the Russian Space Systems. I think all the decisions will be made this week,” Popovkin said.
The only shareholder of the Russian Space Systems, a company hired by Roscosmos to draft technical specifications for Glonass, is the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo).
"I’m not ready to tell who will be the [new] chief. One of Urlichich’s deputies will be the acting head, and we are now considering possible candidates,” the Roscosmos chief told reporters, adding that the move was intended "to prevent interference into the ongoing investigation."
Russia’s rival to GPS was rocked by fraud allegations earlier this month, with the Interior Ministry accusing unnamed Glonass officers of embezzling 6.5 billion rubles ($200 million) of program’s funds.
The first signs of a looming scandal appeared in July when police raided the offices of Russian Space Systems and “unearthed facts of the unreasonable spending of 565 million rubles ($17 million).”
The firm was at the center of a public spat earlier this year after accusing Popovkin of "illegal audits" and setting up "uncontrolled structures." Roscosmos then hit back, saying the allegations were part of a "media campaign" against Popovkin.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.