MOSCOW (AP) -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced millions in state subsidies to the nation's top rocket manufacturer which is struggling to pay its debts amid the financial crisis.
Putin said the government would provide 8 billion rubles ($233 million) to the state-controlled Khrunichev State Research and Production Center.
"We will continue to support rocket and space industries," Putin said during a visit to the company's giant factory in western Moscow. "We will provide financial assistance when necessary to help enterprises maintain their financial stability."
Khrunichev, which manufactures heavy-lift Proton booster rockets, has been a cash cow for the Russian space industry since the 1991 Soviet collapse, putting commercial satellites -- mostly foreign -- into high, geostationary orbits. Russia receives tens of millions of dollars for each launch.
Khrunichev's director Vladimir Nesterov told Putin that the company needed state help because the costs of debt servicing has sharply increased due to the devaluation of the Russian currency.
Nesterov said that the company would also need state assistance to develop a new heavy-lift booster rocket model -- the Angara.
Putin named the Angara project as the top priority and said that the government would allocate the total of 82 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) for space industries this year.
"We aren't planning any reduction in spending on rocket and space industries in the revised budget for this year," he said.