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Russia says it will suspend ISS cooperation until sanctions are lifted

Russia says it will suspend ISS cooperation until sanctions are lifted

Russia says it will end cooperation with other countries on the International Space Station until sanctions imposed on the country are lifted. The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, announced in a thread on Twitter that the "resumption of normal relations between partners" on the ISS and other projects is possible only with "the full and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions."

In translated versions of his tweets, Rogozin says he appealed for the sanctions in letters to NASA, the European Space Agency, as well as the Canadian Space Agency. Rogozin also posted images of what appeared to be each country's response – the CSA confirmed the letter's authenticity to The Verge, but declined to comment further. The Verge also contacted ESA, but did not immediately hear back.

While NASA did not directly confirm the letter's authenticity, the agency acknowledged Rogozin's comments and said the ISS is still working with input from Roscosmos. The statement from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson reads, "NASA is aware of recent comments regarding the International Space Station. US sanctions and export control measures allow US-Russia civil space cooperation on the space station." "The professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts and astronauts continues to protect the safety and mission of everyone on board the ISS."

CSA's letter has a similar response to Rogozin's request, saying, "I can assure you that Canada continues to support the ISS program, and is dedicated to its safe and successful operation." Meanwhile, ESA chief Josef Aschbacher responded by saying he would pass Rogozin's request to the agency's member states for evaluation.

“The position of our partners is clear: the sanctions will not be lifted,” says Rogozin. "The purpose of the sanctions is to kill the Russian economy, to plunge our people into despair and hunger, and to bring our country to its knees." Rogozin says Roscosmos will soon set a date for when to stop Russia's involvement with the ISS, which will be reported to Russian government officials.

Rogozin reacted strongly to sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden in February, saying the space station could have crashed to Earth without Russia's involvement. As my colleague Lauren Grush points out, Russia's return from the station has the potential to do real harm, as NASA relies on Russia to maintain the position and orientation of the ISS in space.

Roscosmos has an agreement with NASA to collaborate on the ISS until 2024. Last year, the Biden administration announced plans to extend the ISS program until 2030, which Russia has yet to sign on. NASA said Russia is "moving forward" to expand its cooperation, but Rogozin's statements make that seem unlikely. Earlier this week, NASA astronaut Mark Vande returned safely to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with two astronauts. Prior to his arrival, there were concerns about his repatriation amid Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, but Roscosmos said it would not trap Vande He on the ISS.