Russia has announced it will opt out of the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 and focus on building its own orbiting outpost.
This was confirmed by the country’s newly appointed space chief, Yurif Borisov, on Tuesday (26 July) during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Borisov was appointed earlier this month to lead the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos and in the meeting he said Russia will fulfill its obligations to other partners at the International Space Station before it leaves the project.
He said: “The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made.”
His statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space outpost after 2024.
The news comes amid soaring tensions between Russia and the West over the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine.
What has been said about Russia’s withdrawal?
By 2024, the Russian Federation will begin to form its new space agency, the Russian orbital station.
Borisov said: "The industry is in a difficult situation, and I see my main task, together with my colleagues, is not to drop, but to raise the bar and, first of all, provide the Russian economy with the necessary space services.”
These services will include navigation, communications, data transmission, meteorological, and geodetic information, "without which modern life cannot be imagined".
He added: "We will continue the manned program in accordance with the approved plans. The main priorities will be made on the creation of the Russian orbital station."
Co-operation on the ISS was halted in Russia back in April, in response to the sanctions imposed on the country following its invasion of Ukraine.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the country’s Roscosmos space agency, said this was unacceptable and he resigned from working with American partners NASA and the European Space Agency.
He said sanctions would kill the Russian economy, "plunge people into despair and hunger and bring our country to its knees."
He added if sanctions were lifted he would consider working with the partners again.
Why is Russia withdrawing from the ISS?
In a statement earlier in July, NASA said it “strongly rebukes” Russia for political activity on the space station related to its ongoing war in Ukraine.
The statement appears to be in response to images released by Roscosmos of three Russian cosmonauts on the station holding flags associated with the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic.
They said the capture of the region was “a liberation day to celebrate both on Earth and in space.”
Roscosmos posted on its Telegram social media network and congratulated the Luhansk People’s Republic government on the capture of the city.
It is unclear whether this disagreement promoted Russia’s withdrawal or if it was down to other external pressures.
What is Russia’s relationship with NASA?
Despite the rift between NASA and Roscosmos over the invasion of Ukraine, both made a deal earlier this month for astronauts to continue riding Russian rockets and for Russian cosmonauts to catch lifts to the International Space Station with SpaceX beginning this autumn.
The agreement ensures that the space station will always have at least one American and one Russian on board to keep both sides of the orbiting outpost running smoothly, according to Nasa and Russian officials.
The swap had long been in the works and was finalised despite frictions over Ukraine in a sign of continuing Russia-US co-operation in space.
The Daily Express has reported that a senior NASA official noted Russia has not informed NASA of any intention of withdrawing from the ISS despite Mr Borisov’s claims.