Russia will exit the International Space Station after 2024.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will leave the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own orbital outpost, the country’s new space chief said Tuesday, amid tensions between Moscow and the West over fighting in Ukraine. In the midst of intense stress.

Yuri Borisov, who was appointed to head the state space agency Roscosmos this month, said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would fulfill its obligations to its partners before pulling out of the project.

“It has been decided to leave the station after 2024,” Borissov said, adding: “I think by that time we will start building the Russian orbital station.”

Borissov’s statement confirmed previous announcements by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to abandon the space station after 2024 when current international arrangements for its operation expire.

NASA and other international partners hope to keep the space station operational until 2030, while the Russians are reluctant to commit beyond 2024.

The space station is jointly operated by the space agencies of Russia, America, Europe, Japan and Canada. The first piece was placed into orbit in 1998, and the outpost has been continuously inhabited for nearly 22 years. It is used to conduct scientific research in zero gravity and to test instruments for future space travel.

It typically has a crew of seven, who spend months at a time on the station as it orbits about 250 miles from Earth. The complex, which is about the length of a football field, consists of two main sections, one run by Russia, the other by the United States and other countries.

It was not immediately clear what the Russian part of the complex would have to do to safely operate the space station after Moscow’s exit.

The Russian announcement is sure to spark speculation that it is part of Moscow’s moves to seek relief from Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

Borissov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, said last month that Moscow could participate in negotiations on a possible expansion of the station’s operations only if the United States lifted sanctions on Russian space industries.

With Elon Musk’s SpaceX now flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station, the Russian space agency lost a major source of revenue. For years, NASA had been paying tens of millions of dollars per seat to fly to and from the station aboard Russian rockets.

Despite tensions over Ukraine, NASA and Roscosmos reached an agreement earlier this month to continue riding Russian rockets for astronauts and for Russian astronauts to begin space station lifts with SpaceX this fall. But there will be no exchange of money on the flights.

According to NASA and Russian officials, the agreement ensures that there will always be at least one American and one Russian aboard the space station so that both sides of the outpost can be easily navigated.

Moscow and Washington also cooperated in space at the height of the Cold War, when the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft launched the first international space missions in 1975, helping to improve US-Soviet relations.

Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral contributed to this report.


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