Putin's Space Chief Clashes With Top Economist Over Russian Space Program

The head of Russia's space program has hit back at comments from one of Vladimir Putin's top finance officials who highlighted the country's shortcomings in space.

This week, Alexei Kudrin, chairman of Russia's Accounts Chamber, reportedly told Putin during a meeting that of all the state programs in the country the space program was the one being operated worst in contrast with others like agriculture and transport.

"Every penny should be spent for some purpose and some task," Kudrin said on June 14 according to Russian media outlet RBC. "Therefore, we do not just check expenses, we also make sure that the results that were announced in state programs are achieved."

In response, Russian space agency Roscosmos said that performance indicators did not take into account external factors like international sanctions. Roscosmos also said it had improved the results of its work in recent years.

Alexei Kudrin and Dmitry Rogozin
Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin has hit back at Russian official Alexei Kudrin's criticism of the space organization. In This combination image, Kudrin (L) is seen in Moscow in May, 2017. Rogozin (R) is seen at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018. MIKHAIL SVETLOV/GETTY

Writing on his Telegram channel, Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin had some stronger words.

"This is not the first time Kudrin's public hostile statements have caused surprise and indignation," he wrote, translated from Russian. "The head of the Accounts Chamber should be, first of all, a highly qualified and objective specialist, and not a professional liberal in a high state position."

Rogozin has made ambitious statements about the future of Russia's space program in the midst of the ongoing international backlash against the country for its invasion of Ukraine. He said that a Russian mission to Mars and a manned space station are all in the works, despite the fact that Roscosmos must now cope with additional sanctions and a lack of international customers purchasing its goods and services.

Earlier this year Russia said it would be canceling sales of rocket engines to the United States while a planned satellite launch with British satellite company OneWeb fell through in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Experts previously told Newsweek that they are doubtful Roscosmos will be able to meet its lofty ambitions in the coming years due in part to this financial pressure.

It is not the first time that Kudrin has criticized Roscosmos. In 2018, the finance official accused the agency of "irrational spending" and "violations of discipline" in an interview on the Russian state-owned TV channel Russia-1.

"Several billions have been lost—that is, in fact, stolen—and investigations are underway," he said at the time according to state news agency TASS. "We have big problems with Roscosmos."

Newsweek reached out to Roscosmos for comment.