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No, Russian cosmonauts were not making a pro-Ukraine statement with their spacesuits

In this photo taken from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, three Russian cosmonauts sport yellow spacesuits upon arriving on the International Space Station. A NASA astronaut now says it was not in support for Ukraine, but for the Russians' university school colors.
Roscosmos
/
AP
In this photo taken from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, three Russian cosmonauts sport yellow spacesuits upon arriving on the International Space Station. A NASA astronaut now says it was not in support for Ukraine, but for the Russians' university school colors.

A NASA astronaut who just returned from the International Space Station says his Russian counterparts who boarded the ISS wearing yellow and blue spacesuits were not doing so to support Ukraine.

Mark Vande Hei, who returned to Earth on March 30 after nearly a year in space, said the yellow and blue colors represent the university the Russian cosmonauts attended.

"I think the folks that wore them had no idea that people would perceive that as anything to do with Ukraine," Vande Hei said in a press conference Tuesday. "All three of them happen to be associated with the same university and those are the school colors for that."

Hei says he thinks the Russians were "blindsided" by the reaction on Earth.

Last month, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, docked their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft on the ISS. When they entered through the hatch, all three were wearing yellow spacesuits with blue. The Russian flag was also featured on their spacesuits.

When asked about the yellow suits, Artemyev said that every crew chooses their own.

"It became our turn to pick a color. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that's why we had to wear yellow," he said, according to The Associated Press.

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Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.