Amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine war, a US astronaut and two cosmonauts have returned to Earth together from the International Space Station aboard a Russian space capsule.

The American Mark Vande Hei and the cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov landed in central Kazakhstan on Wednesday, as shown by live images from the US space agency Nasa.

About four hours earlier they had undocked from the ISS with a Russian Soyuz space capsule.

Both sides had previously vehemently denied speculation that Vande Hei would not be able to fly back to Earth on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft due to the tensions.

Shkaplerov handed over command of the ISS to US astronaut Thomas Marshburn before departure on Tuesday.

Vande Hei and Dubrow arrived together on the ISS on April 9, 2021.

Vande Hei, 55, has overtaken Scott Kelly, who previously held the record for the longest stay by an American in space at 341 consecutive days.

In addition to Marshburn, the US astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, the German astronaut Matthias Maurer and the three cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov remained on the ISS.

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