Russia says it will suspend cooperation with the ISS until sanctions are lifted

Russia says it will end cooperation with other countries on the International Space Station until sanctions against the country are lifted. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has announced: in a thread on Twitter that the “re-establishment of normal relations between partners” on 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 in letters to NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency that he will appeal the sanctions. Rogozin also posted images of what appears to be each country’s response – the CSA confirmed the letter’s authenticity to The edge but declined to comment further. The edge also contacted NASA and the ESA, but did not immediately hear back.

“The US continues to support international government collaborations in space, especially those activities related to the exploitation of the ISS with Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan,” the letter signed by NASA administrator Bill Nelson said. “New and existing US export control measures continue to enable cooperation between the US and Russia to ensure the continued safe operations 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 safe and successful operations.” Meanwhile, ESA head Josef Aschbacher replied by saying he will forward Rogozin’s request to the agency’s member states for review.

“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, plunge our people into despair and hunger, and bring our country to its knees.” Rogozin adds that Roscosmos will soon set a date for ending Russian involvement with the ISS, which will then be reported to Russian government officials.

Rogozin reacted strongly to sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden in February, insinuating that the space station could crash into Earth without Russia’s intervention. As my colleague Loren Grush points out, Russia’s withdrawal from the station could do real damage, as NASA relies on Russia to maintain the position and orientation of the ISS in space.

On Thursday, NASA said Russia was “on track to” extend its cooperation on the ISS until 2030, but Rogozin’s statements make this unlikely. Earlier this week, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned safely to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying two cosmonauts. Prior to his arrival, there were concerns about his return home amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, but Roscosmos claimed it would not leave Vande Hei stranded on the ISS.

Update Apr 2 4:46 PM ET: Updated to add confirmation from the CSA about the authenticity of the CSA letter Dmitry Rogozin posted on Twitter.

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