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Russia will withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024, a move that comes amid tensions between Moscow and Western nations over the war in Ukraine, Sky News reported.
Yuri Borisov, head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos, confirmed Russia’s departure Tuesday, adding that Moscow is now focusing on building its own orbital outpost.
Russian officials have been contemplating leaving the ISS since 2021 over concerns regarding the station’s aging equipment and safety risks, according to the Washington Post.
But the exit comes amid an ongoing spat over sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. In April, Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, announced that Russia would halt cooperation on the ISS in response to Western sanctions, saying they were aimed at bringing “our country to its knees.”
Despite heightened tensions, NASA and Roscosmos reached an agreement earlier this month to ensure that the ISS always has at least one American and one Russian on board to keep the station running smoothly.
Both parties also agreed to allow astronauts to continue using Russian rockets and for cosmonauts to use SpaceX starting in the fall to travel to the aging orbital station.
Meanwhile, NASA officials unveiled plans earlier this year to decommission the ISS in 2031. It said the laboratory would continue operating until 2030 but its long-term future is unsustainable.