Russian space chief threatens International Space Station over sanctions

This photo provided by NASA shows the International Space Station with Earth's horizon as a backdrop

Russia's space agency chief said that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies over Russia's invasion into Ukraine could potentially destroy cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS).

After President Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. would sanction major Russian banks and impose export controls on Russia to curtail high-tech imports, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that the ISS's current location is under Russian control.

"If you block cooperation with us, who will save the International Space Station (ISS) from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or...Europe?" Rogozin said in one of his tweets. "There is also the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?"

Currently, there are four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronaut onboard the outpost, according to CNN.

A NASA spokesperson told CNN that they will continue "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 new export control measures will continue to allow U.S.-Russia civil space cooperation," the spokesperson added.

Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman told CNN that the ISS, which is a collaboration among the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, cannot function if the U.S. and Russia don't cooperate.

"The Russian segment can't function without the electricity on the American side, and the American side can't function without the propulsion systems that are on the Russian side," Reisman said. "So you can't do an amicable divorce. You can't do a conscious uncoupling."

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced concern over the future of the ISS during remarks in the House of Commons Thursday, saying he has been supportive of continued collaboration regarding the ISS but that current circumstances have made it difficult to "see how even those can continue as normal," according to CNN.

The news comes as the White House announced Friday that it will directly sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Moscow in response to the invasion of Ukraine.