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First rocket launch from Russia’s Vostochny after delay

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MOSCOW — Russia has launched its inaugural rocket from another cosmodrome, a day after a technical glitch foiled the much-publicised event and led to President Vladimir Putin criticising the program’s officials.

The unmanned Soyuz-2.1A rocket carrying three satellites roared off into a clear blue sky from the launch pad at the Vostochny cosmodrome in the remote Amur Region near China’s border at 5:01am Moscow time, state television showed.

The satellites separated from the rocket’s third stage about nine minutes into the flight, heading to their designated orbits, Russian media quoted officials from the space agency Roscosmos as saying.

The launch was called off less than two minutes before the lift-off on Wednesday, upsetting President Vladimir Putin, who had flown thousands of kilometres to watch what the media and officials touted as an historic event.

“I want to congratulate you. There is something to be proud of,” local media quoted Mr Putin telling cosmodrome workers after watching Thursday’s launch at Vostochny.

“In principle, we could have held the launch yesterday, but the equipment overdid its job and stopped the launch. This is a normal thing.”

The Vostochny spaceport, the first civilian rocket launch site on Russian territory, is intended to phase out the nation’s reliance on the Baikonur cosmodrome it leases from Kazakhstan at a cost of nearly $151 million a year.

Delays and corruption have blighted work on the cosmodrome, which Mr Putin has hailed as Russia’s biggest current building project, with a budget of between $6 and $8 billion.

AFP

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5 dead as gunman attacks churchgoers in Russia

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At least five people were killed and another five were injured when a gunman attacked a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday in Russia’s southern province of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

CCTV footage from the site of the deadly shooting shows a man armed with a rifle gunning down two women in broad daylight.

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A bearded man clad in a black vest and camouflage pants was seen crossing the street before opening fire on two female churchgoers as they left a service in Kizlyar in the Republic of Dagestan on Sunday afternoon. A woman walking several meters from the attacker was seen rushing away as the bloodshed unfolded.

The attacker was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Agencies

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