Kazakhstan starts criminal pollution probe on Dnepr crash

(Associated Press WorldStream via NewsEdge) Kazakh authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the crash of a Russian-built rocket last week that spread highly toxic fuel over a wide swath of uninhabited territory in the Central Asia nation, a Foreign Ministry official has said.

The Dnepr rocket, carrying 18 satellites, crashed shortly after liftoff about 24km south of the Soviet-era Baikonur cosmodrome.

The crash caused no injuries or damage on the ground, but was feared to have seriously polluted the area with the highly poisonous fuel heptyl. Kazakh emergency officials said the concentration of various toxic and other harmful substances in the crash area exceeded permissible levels by at least 1,000 times.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov said regional prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation into the incident, and said Russia would compensate Kazakhstan for the environmental damage, in line with earlier agreements on the use of Baikonur.

c 2006 The Associated Press

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