Three Russian cosmonauts landed Thursday in the steppe of Kazakhstan, returning from a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS);

announced the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Russians Oleg Artemiev, Denis Matveïev and Sergei Korsakov landed at 12:57 p.m. (French time), nearly 150 kilometers from the city of Jezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, according to a press release from Roscosmos.

According to images broadcast live by the Russian space agency, the three cosmonauts were extracted from the Soyuz descent module, smiles on their lips and under a big blue sky.

The crew had started its mission in the International Space Station in mid-March, three weeks after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

A message of support for the troops in Moscow

In July, Roscosmos published a photo of them aboard the orbital laboratory waving the flags of the pro-Russian separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a message of support for Moscow troops engaged in its neighbor.

The return of the three Russian cosmonauts to Earth comes after four Ukrainian regions controlled by Russia, including those of Lugansk and Donetsk, announced on Wednesday that they were asking President Vladimir Putin for their annexation, following "referendums" widely condemned by kyiv and the Westerners.

Cooperation with the United States

In recent months, Western countries have adopted unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow in retaliation for Russian military intervention in Ukraine, particularly against the aerospace industry.

These measures had triggered warnings from the former Russian space official and unconditional supporter of intervention in Ukraine, Dmitry Rogozin.

Dmitry Rogozin's successor, appointed in July, Yuri Borissov, later confirmed Russia's decision to leave the ISS after 2024 in favor of creating its own orbital station, but did not set a specific date.

Despite these very strong Russian-Western tensions, space programs remain a rare sign of cooperation between Moscow and Washington.

Last week, an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts arrived on the ISS for a six-month mission.


A Soyuz rocket takes off for the ISS with an American and two Russians on board


ISS: The first manned flight of Starliner, the Boeing capsule, will take place in February 2023

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