Co-operation on the International Space Station (ISS) is to be halted by Russia in response to the sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
Branding the situation as “unacceptable”, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the country’s Roscosmos space agency, said it would no longer work with partners, including NASA and the European Space Agency on the orbital outpost.
Arguing the sanctions were designed “to kill the Russian economy, plunge our people into despair and hunger, and bring our country to its knees”, he said normal relations could only be restored with the unconditional lifting of the “illegal” measures.
While other shared projects such as launches had been cancelled in the wake of the military assault by Russia on Ukraine, collaboration between space agencies on the international lab had largely been unaffected by the continuing war back on Earth.
Only last week in a closely watched return, US astronaut Mark Vande Hei landed safely back in the same capsule as two Russian cosmonauts, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over the conflict.
• Russian forces are creating “a complete disaster”, Ukraine’s president has said
• The US will provide an additional $300m (£228m) in military assistance to Ukraine, including laser-guided rocket systems, drones, and commercial satellite imagery services
• A Red Cross convoy travelling to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol will make another attempt to evacuate civilians from the besieged port
• As Russia starts to pull back from Kyiv and Chernihiv, Ukraine said its military had retaken 29 settlements in those regions
• At least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired from the Crimean Peninsula at the Odesa region, but Ukrainian air defence stopped them from hitting critical infrastructure, the military said
When three cosmonauts arrived aboard the space station last month, Roscosmos dismissed suggestions they had chosen to wear yellow flight suits with blue trim – the colours of Ukraine’s national flag – in support of the country, saying: “Sometimes yellow is just yellow.”
Announcing US economic sanctions against the Kremlin in February, US President Joe Biden ordered high-tech export restrictions against Russia that he said were designed to “degrade” its aerospace industry, including its space programme.
Mr Rogozin hit out at the time, arguing the action taken could “destroy” ISS teamwork and lead to the lab falling out of orbit.
He urged other space agencies to lift sanctions on companies in the Russian rocket and space industries to ensure work on the station would continue and gave a deadline for the end of the month.
In their responses they committed to continued cooperation on the space station, but gave no indication the economic measures would be eased.
‘Unacceptable state of affairs’
Writing on Twitter, Mr Rogozin said: “The position of our partners is clear: the sanctions will not be lifted.
“At the same time, fearing the destruction of cooperation on the ISS, where the role of Russia is of fundamental importance to ensure the viability and safety of the station, Western partners make it clear that in reality, sanctions in terms of work in the interests of the ISS will not work.
“I consider this state of affairs unacceptable.”
He added: “Sanctions from the US, Canada, the European Union and Japan are aimed at blocking financial, economic and production activities of our high-tech enterprises.
“The purpose of the sanctions is to kill the Russian economy, plunge our people into despair and hunger, and bring our country to its knees.
“It is clear that they will not be able to do this, but the intentions are clear.
“That’s why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions.
“Specific proposals of Roskosmos on the timing of the completion of cooperation within the ISS with the space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan will be reported to the leadership of our country in the near future.”