Russia pulls out of European spaceport over Ukraine war sanctions

The Russian space agency has announced it will cease operations at the European spaceport in French Guiana in retaliation for EU sanctions over the war in Ukraine

Jon Kelvey
Monday 28 February 2022 16:08 GMT
A Russian Soyuz rocket at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana
A Russian Soyuz rocket at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (AFP via Getty Images)

Roscosmos will stop Soyuz launches from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and begin pulling its personnel from the site, the Russian space agency announced Saturday.

The move comes in response to European Union sanctions levied on Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, 24 February, according to a post to the Roscosmos Twitter account.

“In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners in organizing space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana,” the tweet read.

A second tweet clarified that 87 Russians currently work at the spaceport and that the details of their departure are still being worked out.

The Roscosmos decision contrasts with the official statements of both the European Space Agency and Nasa, which were quick to assert Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would not impact their cooperation with Russia on space projects ranging from the International Space Station, to the construction of a Mars rover, to the training of Russian Cosmonauts at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center, in Texas.

“Nasa and its international partners have maintained a continuous and productive human presence aboard the International Space Station for more than 21 years,” a Nasa spokesperson said on 25 February.

Seven people currently live and work on the ISS, including two Russian Cosmonauts, one ESA astronaut, and four US astronauts.

The Russian cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov are supposed to return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on 30 March along with US astronaut Mark Vande Hai, and Roscosmos has not indicated any change to that scheduled flight.

Roscosmos is also continuing with at least some space commerce with European nations. The Russian space agency tweeted Monday morning that the Soyuz rocket designated to launch satellites for OneWeb, a satellite internet company partially owned by the UK government, will soon roll out to the launchpad ahead of its scheduled 4 March launch date.

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