Russian Firebrand Space Chief Who Was Involved In ‘Ferocious Spat’ With Elon Musk Sacked As Roscosmos Boss

Yuri Borisov, who previously served as Russian Deputy PM, has replaced Dmitry Rogozin as the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, according to a decree published on Friday on the Kremlin’s official website.

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As the deputy prime minister, Borisov was responsible for overseeing the defense-industrial sector.

“To dismiss Rogozin Dmitry Olegovich from the position of the director general in the Roscosmos space corporation. The decree goes into effect from the day it is signed,” the decree said.

Another decree ruled to appoint Borisov as the space agency’s head.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also signed a decree that appointed Russian Trade Minister Denis Manturov as a deputy prime minister.

“To appoint Denis Valentinovich Manturov as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation – Russian Minister of Industry and Trade. The decree goes into effect from the day it is signed,” the decree read.

Earlier in the day, Putin signed a decree on decreasing the number of deputy prime ministers from 11 to 10.

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Controversial Figure?

Dmitry Rozogin has been in the news ever since sanctions were imposed on Russia. Rozogin issued several veiled threats about quitting the International Space Station (ISS). Recently, he had even threatened US billionaire Elon Musk.

On May 8, the owner and CEO of space company SpaceX Elon Musk shared a note given to Russian media by Rogozin, the chairman of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, on Twitter.

The note read that the US military had delivered equipment for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet system to Ukrainian marines and “militants of the Nazi Azov Battalion.”

“Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the Fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” Rogozin wrote, according to an English translation posted by Musk. “And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult — no matter how much you’ll play the fool.”

SpaceX owner Elon Musk (via Twitter)

There have been reports of connectivity problems across Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24, prompting Musk to dispatch Starlink to assist. According to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, Starlink presently has over 150,000 active users every day.

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The presence of Starlink in Ukraine has angered Dmitry Rogozin. “Elon Musk is involved in supplying the Fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” he said in a post on the Telegram messenger app.

The statement that caught the most attention and almost resembled a veiled threat was, “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya” as pointed about by Musk, who did not seem to be bothered by any such threats.

He has been embroiled in a Twitter war of words ever since the “special military operation” was launched against Ukraine.

The head of Roscosmos has repeatedly warned that Russia may exit the International Space Station (ISS) program if sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the invasion are not lifted, but the ISS is operating for now.

The NASA chief himself busted the news of Russia’s withdrawal from the ISS as ‘misinformation.’

Rozogin vs Musk

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been consistently expanding its Starlink satellite internet network in embattled Ukraine, with a government official estimating that approximately 150,000 people use it every day.

Earlier, the Ukrainian Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov stated in a tweet that “rough data” on Starlink indicated “about 150K” daily active users.

“This is a crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and restoring the destroyed territories,” Fedorov said.

Fedorov drew Musk’s attention with a tweet immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine, pleading for help after a suspected cyber attack crippled earlier satellite internet connections and the Russian military targeted the country’s communications infrastructure.

In April, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) informed CNBC that “a range of stakeholders” committed over $15 million in hardware and transportation services to deliver 5,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, with USAID purchasing 1,333 terminals directly from SpaceX.

This is precisely what has triggered an angry response from the Russian space chief. Moscow has maintained from the outset that its special military operations in Ukraine are aimed at the denazification of the country.

The Russians have lamented all foreign countries for aiding Ukraine, which it considers, an aid to the Neo-Nazis, a point made by Rozogin as well.

File:Dmitry Rogozin, 2015-07-15, 3.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
File Image: Dmitry Rogozin

However, this is not the first time that the two men have engaged in a spat. Rogozin had said in 2014 that the US should use a trampoline to get its astronauts to the ISS, referring to the fact that the country was fully reliant on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crewed orbital missions at the time.

Rogozin, who was Russia’s deputy prime minister at the time, was enraged by sanctions imposed soon after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, which had previously been part of Ukraine.

With its groundbreaking Demo-2 flight to the International Space Station in May 2020, SpaceX put a stop to such reliance. Musk gave a six-year-in-the-making retort to Rogozin shortly after the liftoff: “The trampoline is working!”

The controversy came a week after Elon Musk declared his intention to purchase Twitter. Maye Musk, the Tesla CEO’s mother, responded to his post about his death and termed it “not funny.” Musk expressed regret and apologized, saying: “Sorry! I will do my best to stay alive.”