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Putin in Kazakhstan to discuss space launch site, oil development
Russian President Vladimir Putin is leaving Friday on his first foreign visit this year to Kazakhstan, which is to hold the Year of Russia in 2004. Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev are to focus on the Russian lease of the Baikonur space launching site and on joint development of oil deposits in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea. “The talk is about 7-8 major agreements, including the use of the Baikonur cosmodrome, and economic projects with the participation of the LUKOIL Oil Company and its Kazakh partners”, Kremlin deputy chief-of-staff Sergei Prikhodko said. Russia has been leasing Baikonur for a 20-year period since 1994 and is annually paying Kazakhstan 115 million US dollars for the launching site. Additional 50 million dollars are allocated to maintain numerous objects of the site. Baikonur was built in Soviet times and occupies a territory of some seven thousand square kilometers and has 11 assembly and test facilities. It has launching pads for various types of boosters, and is the only place from where Russia can launch manned spacecraft, as well as heavy Proton boosters with commercial satellites. Last year Russia and Kazakhstan negotiated a possible extension of the lease for another 50 years. Putin and Nazarbayev are to sign an interstate agreement on Baikonur, as well as a memorandum on cooperation in maintaining the site, as well as a document on the protection of objects and valuable cargoes. The Kazakh Aerospace agency and the Russian Khrunichev space concern will sign an agreement on the launch of the first Kazakh geostationary satellite. The Russian and Kazakh presidents are expected to discuss cooperation in fuel and energy production, oil and gas transportation, joint efforts in power engineering and oil development in the northern part of the Caspian Sea. On the sidelines of the visit, the Russian LUKOIL Company and the Kazakh KazMunaiGas Company with sign a contract on joint development of the Dostyk oil project in the Caspian Sea. LUKOIL will finance prospecting of the field. Two other agreements will deal with border protection. Putin and Nazarbayev will also attend the commencement of the Year of the Russian Federation in Kazakhstan.
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