Russian cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev, and Denis Matveev pose with the flag of the Luhansk People’s Republic.

(Roscosmos Telegram/IANS)

NASA, in a rare statement, slammed Russian cosmonauts on board the International Space Station for celebrating the capture of a region of eastern Ukraine while in space.

In a statement, NASA said it “strongly rebukes using the International Space Station for political purposes to support (the) war against Ukraine, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating countries to advance science and develop technology for peaceful purposes”, the Washington Post reported.

This comes after the Russian space agency on Monday posted photos of its three cosmonauts posing with the flags of the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic — self-proclaimed republics in breakaway regions of Ukraine that are only recognised as independent states by Russia and Syria — and said the capture of the region was “a liberation day to celebrate both on Earth and in space”.

NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, jointly operate the ISS. The orbiting space lab currently has two Russian cosmonauts, one European astronaut and four Americans.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on February 24 this year, relations between the US and Russia have been sour. However, both countries have pledged to continue the partnership.

Earlier this year, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said that despite the war and tensions on the ground, NASA and its Russian counterparts “are still talking together. We’re still doing training together. We’re still working together. Obviously, we understand the global situation and where it is, but as a joint team, these teams are operating together.”

“We need to continue to monitor the situation…we’ve operated in these kinds of situations before, and both sides always operated very professionally and understood the importance of this fantastic mission and continuing to have peaceful relations between the two countries in space,” she added.

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The above article has been published from a wire agency with minimal modifications to the headline and text.

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