DATE=4/12/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / SPACE (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-261231 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President-elect Vladimir Putin has cast doubt on Russia's commitment to the international space station, suggesting that the country's priority space project should be the MIR orbiter. As V-O-A's Peter Heinlein reports from Moscow, MIR is coming back to life after eight months without a crew. TEXT: /// ASTRONAUTS ACTS - FADE UNDER /// Russian television broadcast a mini-celebration in space Wednesday, marking the 39th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic orbit that started the era of manned spaceflight. T-V newscasts showed pictures of two cosmonauts aboard the MIR space station, floating in front of a large Russian tri- color flag. One could be heard saying, "The celebration has begun". /// OPT /// The 14-year old orbiter was shut down last year as Russia shifted its meager space resources to the new international space station. MIR was to have been taken out of orbit and sent crashing into the ocean. But it is being revived, largely with money from a group of foreign investors who have talked of converting it into a tourist destination. /// END OPT /// Russia's space budget is only a fraction of what it was during the glory days. A space agency official is quoted as saying the government's contribution this year will be 120-million dollars. The official, who asked not to be named, said 120-million is just enough to cover Russia's commitment to the international space station. Even so, cash shortages and a host of other problems are forcing costly delays in Russia's portion of the international project. Russia's partners in the 60- billion-dollar station are growing impatient. A Russian-built service module originally slated for launch two years ago is still under construction. Launch is tentatively scheduled for July, but the U-S space agency NASA has begun an urgent program to build a backup unit in case the Russian module is not ready. In comments certain to compound those concerns, President-elect Vladimir Putin suggested Wednesday that MIR -- and not the international station -- would remain Russia's number one space priority. /// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "We spoke of continuing our cooperation with the international space station, and we will fulfill our obligations." But, he added, "we must never forget that our first priority is the domestic industry." At a Kremlin ceremony marking the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic flight, Mr. Putin said keeping Russia's space program going is a matter of national pride. He said space exploration allows the country to continue calling itself a great power. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Russian leader as saying money for the MIR space station would be included in next year's federal budget. (Signed) NEB/PFH/JWH/KL 12-Apr-2000 13:09 PM EDT (12-Apr-2000 1709 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .