Officials with NASA and the European Space Agency condemned Russia for using the International Space Station to show support for breakaway regions in Ukraine that have aligned with Moscow following its invasion of its neighbor.
In a rare public rebuke, NASA on Thursday accused its Russian partners of using the space station as a forum to back President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, calling it “fundamentally inconsistent with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating countries to advance science and develop technology for peaceful purposes,” according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
NASA issued the statement after Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, released photographs showing three of its cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) holding the flags of the self-described Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics.
The ESA joined NASA in condemning Russia for using the International Space Station to spread propaganda.
“It is unacceptable that the ISS becomes a platform to play out the political or humanitarian crises happening on the ground,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in a Twitter message. “The purpose of the ISS is to conduct research and prepare us for deeper exploration. It must remain a symbol of peace and inspiration.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if the controversy would affect future “seat swap” plans that would have Russian cosmonauts flying to the ISS on a NASA-sponsored rocket and NASA astronauts continuing to use a Russian Soyuz vehicle.