Russia has suspended cooperation with other nations involved with the International Space Station over sanctions levied amid the war in Ukraine. Photo courtesy Roscosmos/Telegram
April 2 (UPI) -- Russia said it plans to propose suspending cooperation with other nations involved with the International Space Station over sanctions levied amid the war in Ukraine.
Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Russian space agency Roscosmos, made the announcement in a series of tweets Saturday in response to a letter received from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former U.S. senator.
Nelson said in a letter sent Wednesday that NASA could continue to cooperate with Russia "to ensure continued safe operations of the ISS" after Roscosmos had sought clarification about the impact of the sanctions on the ISS, according to a copy of the letter shared by Rogozin.
Rogozin said in his tweets that he had appealed to Nelson and the heads of the European and Canadian space agencies "demanding the lifting of sanctions" against Russian aerospace companies.
European Space Agency Director-General Josef Aschbacher and Canadian Space Agency President Lisa Campbell had also responded to the appeal, Rogozin said.
"The American and Canadian responses are almost carbon-copied," Rogozin said. "With regard to the response of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher acted as a postman."
Rogozin said that Aschbacher said in his response that Russia's request to remove sanctions on aerospace companies would be forwarded to member states of the European Union.
"We are invited to wait until the bureaucracies of all 28 EU countries deign to read the letter of Roscosmos. By this time, either the donkey will die, or the ISS will die by its own death," Rogozin said. "Nevertheless, the position of our partners is clear: the sanctions will not be lifted."
Rogozin said Russia's role with the ISS is "of fundamental importance to ensure the viability and safety of the station" but that the sanctions from the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan are "aimed at blocking financial, economic and production activities" of its high-tech companies.
"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," Rogozin said.
"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."
The news also came after NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. Shkaplerov was the space station's commander and turned command over to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.
There are currently seven astronauts onboard the ISS -- three Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts and one German-born ESA astronaut, Matthias Maurer. With Marshburn, the NASA astronauts are Raja Chari and Kayla Barron.
The three Russian cosmonauts are Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev. It was not immediately clear how the suspension of cooperation would impact the cosmonauts at the ISS.
Artemyev has expressed support for Russia and its decision to invade Ukraine in a statement made last month after he boarded the space station in a yellow and blue uniform, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
"There is no need to look for secret signs and symbols in our uniform. Color is just color," he said. "Despite the fact that we are in space, we are together with our president and people!"
The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA