Russia won’t cooperate on the International Space Station until sanctions are lifted

The head of Roscosmos slammed "illegal" western sanctions on Saturday.

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ZHEZKAZGAN, KAZAKHSTAN - MARCH 30:  In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Expedition 66 NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is carried to a medical tent shortly after he and fellow crew mates Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos landed in their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft near the town of Zhezkazgan on March 30, 2022 in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Vande Hei and Dubrov are returning to Earth after logging 355 days in space as members of Expeditions 64-66 aboard the International Space Station. For Vande Hei, his mission is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut in history. Shkaplerov is returning after 176 days in space, serving as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 65 and commander of Expedition 66. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images)
Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

Russia’s Roscosmos will stop working with NASA and other western space agencies on the International Space Station. On early Saturday morning, Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin slammed international sanctions against Russia and said normal cooperation between the space agency and its western counterparts would only be possible after they were lifted.

“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’s clear they won’t succeed, but the intentions are clear.” Rogozin said in a tweet spotted by Reuters. “That’s why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between the partners at the International Space Station and other projects is possible only with full and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions.”

Rogozin said Roscosmos would submit proposals on ending its work with NASA and other international space agencies to Russian authorities. It’s unclear how the decision would affect the space station. The ISS is not owned by any single country. The US, European Union, Russia, Canada and Japan operate the station through a cooperative agreement between the countries. Roscosmos, however, is critical to the ISS. The Russian Orbital Segment handles guidance control for the entire station.

The US and many other countries imposed harsh sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. Among other effects, those sanctions have seen average Russians lose access to many western-made services, including Apple Pay and Google Pay. They have also made it difficult for Russian businesses to cash out their earnings from online marketplaces platforms like Steam.

The ISS isn’t the first joint space program to see its future thrown into uncertainty due to rising tensions between the West and Russia. In March, Roscosmos said it would not ferry OneWeb’s internet satellites to space until the UK government sold its stake in the company. That same month, the European Space Agency announced it was suspending its joint ExoMars mission with Roscosmos.

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