NASA has slammed Russian astronauts after they displayed an anti-Ukraine flag on the walls of the International Space Station.
Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov were spotted onboard the station posing with the flag used to represent the Luhansk People's Republic.
The Luhansk region was illegally occupied by Russia during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
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They posted an image online accompanied by a message.
It said: “This is a long-awaited day that residents of the occupied areas of the Luhansk region have been waiting for eight years.
“We are confident that July 3, 2022, will forever go down in the history of the republic.”
But the trio were slammed by NASA.
A spokesman said: “NASA strongly rebukes Russia using the International Space Station for political purposes to support its 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.”
And European Space Agency Administrator Josef Aschbacher tweeted: “It is unacceptable that the ISS becomes a platform to play out the political or humanitarian crises happening on the ground.
“The purpose of the ISS is to conduct research & prepare us for deeper exploration.
“It must remain a symbol of peace and inspiration.”
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Despite having men at the station, Russia actually pulled out of any working agreement with the ISS in April.
The announcement, prompted by international sanctions over the war in Ukraine, was seen as a major blow for the future of space exploration.
The space station needs constant maintenance to maintain a stable orbit, and without Russia's contribution could have to be decommissioned far sooner than originally planned.
Several major new Russian elements were scheduled for launch this year, but have already been scrapped due to worsening international tensions.
The ISS, which launched in 2000, is set to be decommissioned in January 2031 – or sooner, if Russia refuses to cooperate.
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