Russia says it will suspend ISS cooperation until sanctions are lifted

Russia says it will end cooperation with other nations on the International Space Station until sanctions imposed on the country are lifted. This was announced by Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos in a thread on Twitter that the “restoration of normal relations between partners” in the ISS and other projects is only possible with the “complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions”.

In translated versions of his tweets, Rogozin says he has appealed the sanctions in letters to NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Rogozin also released images of each country’s apparent reaction – The edge contacted NASA, ESA, and CSA to confirm its authenticity, but did not immediately receive a response.

“The US continues to support international government cooperation in space, particularly those activities related to the operations of the ISS with Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan,” the letter, signed by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, said. “New and existing U.S. export control measures continue to allow U.S.-Russia cooperation to ensure continued safe operation of the ISS.”

The CSA appears to have a similar response to Rogozin’s request, stating, “I can assure you that Canada continues to support the ISS program and is committed to its safe and successful operation.” Meanwhile, ESA chief Josef Aschbacher replied, he will forward 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 Russia’s economy, plunge our people into desperation and starvation, and bring our country to its knees.” Rogozin adds that Roscosmos will soon set a date for Russia’s participation in the ISS to be discontinued, which will then be communicated to Russian government officials.

Rogozin reacted sharply to the sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden in February, hinting that the space station could crash to Earth without Russia’s involvement. As my colleague Loren Grush points out, Russia’s withdrawal from the station has the potential to cause real damage as NASA relies on Russia to maintain the ISS’ position and orientation in space.

On Thursday, NASA said Russia is moving towards extending its cooperation on the ISS to 2030, but Rogozin’s statements make that unlikely. Earlier this week, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned safely to Earth with two cosmonauts aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Before his arrival, there were concerns about his return home amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, but Roscosmos claimed Vande Hei would not be stranded on the ISS.

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