On Thursday, NASA released a statement strongly condemning the actions of three Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, who recently posed with flags believed to be anti-Ukrainian propaganda. In images released by Russian state space company Roscosmos, the cosmonauts are seen holding flags of the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic – two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine .
“NASA strongly rebukes Russia’s use of the International Space Station for political purposes in support of its war against Ukraine, which is fundamentally incompatible with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating nations to advance science and developing technology for peaceful purposes,” said NASA press secretary Jackie. McGuinness emailed in a statement.
It’s a rare rebuke for NASA against Russia, which is the space agency’s main partner on the International Space Station. Despite ongoing tensions between the United States and Russia over the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, NASA and Roscosmos have continued to work together to maintain continuous operations aboard the ISS, which is continually staffed with American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. The relationship survived throughout the war, even as the head of Roscosmos made open threats to potentially withdraw from the partnership with the ISS, and Russia joked about the risk of stranding an American astronaut in the spaceship. ‘space. This is the first time NASA has openly denounced the actions of Russia and its partner, Roscosmos, in space amid the invasion of Ukraine.
Roscosmos posted the photos on July 4 on the company’s Telegram channel. The images show the three cosmonauts currently aboard the station. In the pictures, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov hold the two flags of the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic. “Day of Liberation of the Lugansk People’s Republic!” the caption of the post reads, according to Google Translate. “We celebrate both on Earth and in space.” The post came after the July 3 capture of the city of Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in Luhansk. The Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic are both Russian-backed breakaway states in Ukraine.
Prior to this blatant political statement by the cosmonauts, there was speculation that the same Russian crew made a statement when they arrived at the ISS in March. The trio arrived dressed in bright yellow jumpsuits with blue colors, which many interpreted as a show of support for Ukraine, whose flag contains bright yellow and blue. However, Roscosmos denied that the suits were a political statement, saying they represented the colors of the university attended by the three cosmonauts.
Even with all the turmoil between the United States and Russia, NASA officials have firmly asserted that the relationship between the US space agency and Roscosmos remains strong. “Despite all this, in space we can have cooperation with our Russian friends, our colleagues. The professional relationship between astronauts and cosmonauts has not lacked momentum,” said the NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, to the Associated Press in March “That’s the cooperation we have going on in the civilian space program.”
In fact, NASA said Russia is still considering expanding its partnership on the ISS, and NASA and Roscosmos have continued to work toward an upcoming crew swap in September, when a Russian cosmonaut will ride on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the ISS while an American astronaut will fly on a Russian Soyuz capsule.