Nasa breaks off contact with Russia's space agency over Ukraine tensions
Rocky diplomatic relations on Earth hit space programme
Nasa has suspended most of its contact with Russia's space agency citing Moscow's "ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" as the diplomatic stand-off between the two countries over the region continues unabated.
The suspension includes "travel to Russia and visits by Russian government representatives to Nasa facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences," Michael F O'Brien, Nasa's associate administrator for international and interagency relations, wrote in an internal memo leaked on Wednesday.
Bilateral contact on the International Space Station, a joint space programme led by Nasa and Russia's Roskosmos space agency, will continue to operate as usual. Two US and three Russian astronauts are currently living together at the International Space Station (ISS).
Outspoken Russian deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin, who recently dismissed US sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle as a "prank", downplayed the seriousness of the suspension, insisting that Russian cooperation had always been limited to the ISS programme.
He tweeted:"Nasa has halted cooperation with Roskosmos, except for work on the ISS. But our cooperation with Nasa was only on ISS."
NASA suspends cooperation with Roscosmos (Rus Fed Space Agency) apart from work on the ISS (cont) http://t.co/h3rciFy9Cb— Dmitry Rogozin (@DRogozin) April 3, 2014
The partial suspension comes after Nasa insisted US- Russia space relations were fine despite tensions over Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea.
"Right now, everything is normal in our relationship with the Russians," Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said during a Nasa budget teleconference.
Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine for the Russian Federation on 16 March following a controversial referendum condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West.
Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the referendum as a "sham" echoing remarks made by President Barack Obama, who claimed "a sloppily organised (referendum) over the course of two weeks" would not be considered "a valid process".
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