Fact Check: Did Russia Really Threaten to Abandon American Astronaut on ISS in Space?

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Reports are being spread on social media that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime are threatening to leave an American astronaut aboard the International Space Station when retrieving their own cosmonauts at the end of this month?

U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei has spent nearly a full year in outer space aboard the International Space Station and is scheduled to return home aboard a Russian capsule as tensions rise between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine War.

Now, reports of Russian officials threatening to leave Vande Hei in outer space are circulating after Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos made some concerning comments on Russian television.

“Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Space Agency and a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, responded to Biden in a series of hostile tweets. On Feb. 26, he posted a video in Russian that threatened to leave Vande Hei behind in space and detach Russia’s segment of the space station altogether,” ABC News reported.

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“Professionals who work in the space industry, they are very much worried [about sanctions] and they do not know where this is going to go next,” Rogozin said.

NASA responded to the claim, saying there have been no changes to Vande Hei’s planned return, where the crew will land in Khazakstan.

“NASA continues working with all our international partners, including the State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the ongoing safe operations of the International Space Station. The new export control measures will continue to allow U.S.-Russia civil space cooperation. No changes are planned to the agency’s support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations,” the agency said in an email response.

While there is no immediate threat to U.S. astronauts, President Joe Biden said Russia’s space agency will feel the heat from his sanctions.

“We estimate that we’ll cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports. That will strike a blow to their ability to continue to modernize their military. It’ll degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program,” Biden said as he ratches up his rhetoric against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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