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The head of Russia's Space Agency has threatened to leave an American astronaut in space after US President Joe Biden announced sanctions on the country.
Biden cut more than half of Russia's high-tech imports following the country's invasion of Ukraine last month, announcing that the sanctions would 'degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program'.
NASA later confirmed 'no changes are planned' in regards to the cooperation of the US and Russia in space, where for years the two countries have collaborated to construct and maintain the International Space Station (ISS), but Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's Space Agency, responded to Biden's sanctions with fury.
Rogozin, who is a close ally to President Vladimir Putin, responded to Biden's announcements on Twitter and threatened to abandon NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in space. He also threatened to detach Russia's segment of the space station altogether, and claimed the ISS would crash into America without Russia's help to move it away from space junk.
He posted a video showing two Russian cosmonauts floating inside the space station and waving goodbye to Vande Hei, who is set to return from his space flight on a Russian spacecraft in a matter of weeks.
Former astronaut Scott Kelly slammed Rogozin's threats online, telling ABC News he was 'just enraged that he, the [cosmonauts], said that they were going to leave an American crew member behind'.
'I never thought I would ever hear anything so outrageous,' he said.
In spite of the ongoing war, Kelly expressed hopes the partnership between the US and Russia in space would be mended, saying he's known people at the Russian Space Agency for years and that he has 'literally trusted them with [his] life before'.
The former astronaut said the US should 'prepare for the worst', but 'hope for the best'.
He added: 'I just hope people realize and want to keep this partnership together because it is one of the few things that unites all of humanity together. I think one of the biggest successes of the International Space Station is the international aspect of giving us something to work on together, that makes us friends.'
Cady Coleman, another US astronaut, stressed that nationality didn't matter on board the ISS, and said instead it was all about working together.
'Space is hard and space is dangerous. And in my experience... with our Russian partners it means sitting down, having a meal together,' she said. 'It means talking about what's hard for you, what's hard for them and how together we can get this accomplished. [We] look each other in the eye and realize that we're all about the same thing.'
NASA has so far not commented on Rogozin's threats.
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