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Russian space chief says sanctions could imperil space station

  • ROSCOSMOS SPACE AGENCY / AP
                                In this image taken from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz MS-21 space ship, right, approaches the International Space Station, ISS, during docking to the station, Friday, March 18.

    ROSCOSMOS SPACE AGENCY / AP

    In this image taken from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz MS-21 space ship, right, approaches the International Space Station, ISS, during docking to the station, Friday, March 18.

MOSCOW >> The head of Russia’s space program said Saturday that the future of the International Space Station hangs in the balance after the United States, the European Union, and Canadian space agencies missed a deadline to meet Russian demands for lifting sanctions on Russian enterprises and hardware.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, told reporters that the state agency is preparing a report on the prospects of international cooperation at the station, to be presented to federal authorities “after Roscosmos has completed its analysis.”

Rogozin implied on Russian state TV that the Western sanctions, some of which predate Russia’s current military operations in Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the ISS with cargo flights. Russia also sends manned missions to the space station.

He stressed that the Western partners need the space station and “cannot manage without Russia, because no one but us can deliver fuel to the station.”

Rogozin added that “only the engines of our cargo craft are able to correct the ISS’s orbit, keeping it safe from space debris.”

Rogozin later Saturday wrote on his Telegram channel that he received responses from his Western counterparts vowing to promote “further cooperation on the ISS and its operations.”

He reiterated his view that “the restoration of normal relations between partners in the ISS and other joint (space) projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting” of sanctions, which he referred to as illegal.

The Canadian Space Agency declined to comment. NASA and the European Space Agency did not immediately return emailed requests for comment.

Space is one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Moscow and Western nations. U.S.-Russian negotiations on the resumption of joint flights to the space station were underway when Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last month, prompting unprecedented sanctions on Russian state-linked entities.

So far the U.S. and Russia are still cooperating in space. A NASA astronaut caught a Russian ride back to Earth on Wednesday after a U.S. record 355 days at the International Space Station, returning with two cosmonauts.

Mark Vande Hei landed in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan alongside the Russian Space Agency’s Pyotr Dubrov, who also spent the past year in space, and Anton Shkaplerov. Wind blew the capsule onto its side following touchdown, and the trio emerged into the late afternoon sun one by one.

Vande Hei’s return followed customary procedures. A small NASA team of doctors and other staff was on hand for the touchdown and returned home immediately with the 55-year-old astronaut.

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