NASA reprimands ISS cosmonauts after display of pro-Russian separatist flag

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NASA issued a statement this week reprimanding cosmonauts for displaying a pro-Russian separatist flag on the International Space Station, a rare move for the agency which views the outpost as a place for international cooperation.

On July 4, Russian space agency Roscosmos shared two photos on social media showing ISS cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev holding flags used by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. The post praised the capture of what separatists call the Lugansk People’s Republic, located in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

“The entire territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic has been liberated,” Roscosmos said in the post. “Russian and Lugansk forces have established full control over Lisichansk – the last major city of the LPR!”

The cosmonauts also held another flag, this time in favor of another region of Donbass: the Donetsk People’s Republic. Russia fought Ukrainian forces to take over the region.

“Citizens of the Allied Donetsk People’s Republic, wait!” Roscosmos said, hinting that Russian victory is imminent.

NASA was quick to reprimand cosmonauts for displaying the flags, a usually unseen move by the agency that must carefully toe the line between not just US and Russian developments, but 13 other international partners as well. who use the ISS.

“NASA strongly condemns Russia’s use of the International Space Station for political purposes in support of its war against Ukraine,” NASA said in a statement Thursday. “(This) is fundamentally inconsistent with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating nations to advance science and develop technology for peaceful purposes.”

The display of separatist flags by the cosmonauts apparently contradicts their actions from the start of the Russian invasion. In March, the same three cosmonauts wore bright yellow and blue flight suits during a live broadcast from the ISS, hinting at Ukraine’s support. The suits were not part of Russia’s regular rotation of models and Soyuz commander Artemyev blamed the accumulation of leftover fabrics.

“Each crew chooses their own suits and combinations so not everyone is the same,” Soyuz commander Artemyev said in March. “There are a lot of fabrics accumulated in yellow and we had to start using them.”

Including American and European astronauts, 10 people are currently stationed on board the ISS.

The next vehicle destined for the outpost, meanwhile, is now scheduled to fly from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center no earlier than Thursday, July 14. An uncrewed SpaceX Dragon capsule will take off thousands of pounds of cargo, supplies and science experiments at 8:44 a.m. ET that day and spend about a month docked before returning to Earth.

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Contact Emre Kelly at or 321-242-3715. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

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