Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday evoked Stalin-era executions in an emotional
pre-election vow to punish those responsible for a recent
string of costly space mishaps.
Medvedev`s message came just a week before legislative
polls in which the ruling party`s strong performance could
help secure his own standing once Vladimir Putin takes over
the presidency in a planned job swap in March.
Russia`s only one-term president -- a tech-savvy attorney
by training who previously served as a state company executive
-- has lacked Putin`s boyish charisma and has been criticised
for insufficient toughness in some polls.
But the 46-year-old came out swinging today when asked by
a reporter in a live television exchange about why Russia`s
rockets were starting to crash and burn at an alarming rate.
"The recent failures are a big blow to our
competitiveness. This does not mean that anything fatal
happened. It just means that we have to find those responsible
and punish them," Medvedev said in nationally televised
"I am not suggesting that we line people up against the
wall like we did when Joseph Vissarionovich was in power," he
added in reference to the firing squads that Stalin used to
execute his political foes in 1930s purges.
"Nevertheless, we have to punish them seriously."
Russia`s once-proud space programme was hit by a shocking
series of setbacks this year that included the loss of an
International Space Station cargo craft and a Mars moon probe
that became stuck in an low Earth orbit upon launch.