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Published: Friday March 28, 2014 MYT 5:00:02 PM
Updated: Friday March 28, 2014 MYT 5:01:14 PM

Kazakhstan halts Russian missile tests on its land after rocket crash

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan said on Friday it had suspended rocket and missile tests by Russia at military testing sites rented by Moscow on Kazakh territory after a Russian rocket crashed near a village.

A meteorological rocket of the MN-300 type was launched from the Kapustin Yar testing site in Russia early on Thursday, Kazakhstan's Defence Ministry said, but exploded near the village of Shungai in the West Kazakhstan Region.

No casualties or serious damage were reported, the ministry said. It quoted Russia's Defence Ministry as blaming the incident on a failure of the rocket's engine system which prevented it reaching a targeted testing ground in Kazakhstan.

"The Defence Ministry of Kazakhstan has suspended tests at military fields rented by Russia on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan until the causes of the incident have been clarified," the Kazakh ministry said in a statement.

The Soviet-era Kapustin Yar test site, in use since the late 1940s, sprawls from Russia's southern Astrakhan Region to Kazakhstan's Atyrau and West Kazakhstan regions. It tests various types of missiles and rockets, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Russia and Kazakhstan have close political and economic ties, but several botched launches of Russian rockets have caused tensions in the past.

Last July Kazakhstan temporarily banned all launches of Russia's Proton cargo rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome rented by Moscow after a rocket of this type carrying three navigation satellites crashed shortly after lift-off.

That accident led to a large spill of heptyl, a highly toxic rocket propellant, but there were no reports of casualties.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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