Government 'actively avoided' evidence of Russian interference in Brexit as long-awaited report released

Russia accused of firing ‘weapon’ from satellite that could ‘threaten the peace of space’

Moscow ‘injected a new object into orbit’ from satellite Cosmos 2543, US Space Command says

Samuel Lovett@samueljlovett
Thursday 23 July 2020 19:18

Russia has been accused by UK officials of threatening “the peaceful use of space” after launching a projectile “with the characteristics of a weapon” during a satellite test.

It is the first time the Ministry of Defence has called out Russian activity of this sort.

The head of the UK’s space directorate, air vice-marshal Harvey Smyth, said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.

“Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing.

“We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

America also condemned the action, describing the event as a test of an anti-satellite weapon.

According to the US space command, Russia “injected a new object into orbit” from the satellite Cosmos 2543.

“The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia manoeuvred near a US government satellite,” said general Jay Raymond, US Space Force chief of space operations.

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and allied space assets at risk.”

The US also accused Russia of conducting an anti-satellite missile test in April.

Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons were cited as one of the reasons why the US needed a military branch focused on space, prompting the creation of the Space Force which Mr Raymond now leads.

Addressing Thursday’s satellite test, Christopher Ford, the US assistant secretary of state, said: “This event highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program – both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry.”

It comes as the US president, Donald Trump, told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday he wanted to avoid a costly arms race with Russia and China, and hoped for progress in arms control negotiations.

“President Trump reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

Additional reporting by PA

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