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article imageRussian space chief says US shutdown delayed NASA visit

By AFP     Jan 9, 2019 in World

Russia's space agency chief on Wednesday said his trip to the US was postponed by NASA due to the government agency falling "victim" to the ongoing shutdown, rather than a diplomatic snub.

Head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand nationalist politician known for his anti-Western rhetoric, was set to visit the US in February.

His agency reacted furiously last week after NASA said it was postponing the visit indefinitely.

He has now apparently been appeased by an explanation from NASA, whose chief Jim Bridenstine visited Russia in October and praised bilateral cooperation.

"We understand that this situation is a fragment of the battle between (US) Congress and (President Donald) Trump," Rogozin told state channel Rossiya 24.

"NASA is a victim of this battle," he said, adding that Russia understands the US space agency to be "in favour of developing cooperation with Russia", particularly on a potential Moon base.

"We are also interested in working with the Americans, although we would like to see in them a predictable partner," he said, saying the current situation "leaves a bad aftertaste".

NASA is one of the government agencies affected by the partial government shutdown forced by Trump's refusal to sign off on a Congress-approved spending bill that does not include his $5.6 billion request to build a giant wall on the US-Mexican border.

Most NASA workers are among the 800,000 government employees left without pay in the process, as 96 percent of the agency's staff are considered non-essential.

Government-employed scientists, including from NASA, cannot even attend major conferences such as this week's American Astronomical Society's meeting, an AAS spokesman told AFP.

The delayed visit risked becoming another diplomatic row with Russia after Roscosmos demanded an explanation at the weekend.

Some US lawmakers spoke out against inviting the Russian space chief, who is formally on a US blacklist.

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