The financing of state space programmes is gradually improving in Russia, chief of the Russian Aerospace Agency (Rosaviacosmos) Yuri Koptev told a briefing in Moscow on Tuesday. He said that the state programme for the development of the Global Navigational Satellite System (GLONASS), adopted this year, will be financed to a sum of 1.6 billion rubles in 2002. "This inspires hope that in 2004-2005 our satellite group will be increased to 16 -- 18 craft and its full-scale functioning will be ensured", stressed Koptev. A tendency for sustained development is surfacing also in space communication. According to Koptev, in 2002 a new-generation satellite, Ekran, will be put into orbit. Its service life will be increased from 3-4 to 7 years and it will maintain 220 channels of radio and television communication, thus lifting this problem from the eastern regions of Russia. The weather-forecast situation has also improved: the weather satellite Meteor-3, launched this December, will help handle the task. State financing for the Russian segment of the International Space Station will also improve, Koptev assured. If in 2001 the state allocated 2.7 billion roubles on its operation, the 2002 budget envisages 3 billion (approximately 100 million dollars) for that purpose. Koptev regretted that this year the number of commercial launches has been cut more than 50 percent, as in the world. "Only three Protons, one Zenit and not a single Soyuz have been launched. This is the reason why the production increment in the space sector will be only 5.2-5.3 percent in 2001. In 2000 it was about ten percent", reported Yuri Koptev.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea
President Vladimir Putin has not released an official statement yet about his position on the issue of the pension reform in Russia