Russian colonel to be tried for rocket debris fraud

A rocket launch from Plesetsk, northern Russia
Image caption Rocket launches are carried out regularly in northern Russia

A Russian colonel entrusted with clearing up debris from space rocket launches is to be tried for fraud worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Col Konstantin Petrishchev was responsible for scrapping debris in the far north of Russia for four years, and contracted the work to private firms.

But investigators found that of $1.8m (£1.1m) paid to contractors, $750,000 was awarded for fictitious contracts.

In return, the colonel is said to have received $520,000 in bribes.

He was arrested two years ago after allegedly being caught red-handed accepting a bribe from a businessman worth $26,000.

By that time he had started a new job at the Russian defence ministry's directorate for scrapping armaments and military hardware.

Before that he had served four years in the Russian Space Troops, where he had been responsible for removing space debris in the Arkhangelsk, Tyumen and Komi regions.

Col Petrishchev was found by investigators to have failed to monitor the work of companies employed to remove debris.

He will be tried by a military court.

The Russian military conducts rocket launches from its cosmodrome at Plesetsk, in the Arkhangelsk region.

Metal discarded by rockets may pose an environmental hazard as it contains long-lasting toxins.

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