Russia denies new space station cosmonauts wore yellow to support Ukraine

The new Russian cosmonauts at the ISS
It said the connection was "a funny invention of foreign bloggers and media". Photo credit: Supplied / Roscosms

Russia has denied that its cosmonauts who docked at the International Space Station (ISS) over the weekend wore yellow spacesuits in support of Ukraine.

The cosmonauts took off from a Russian facility in Kazakhstan and had a three-hour flight to the ageing space station. 

But it was when the hatches were opened and all three floated onboard wearing bright yellow suits that the controversy began.

Earlier, at least one of the cosmonauts had been wearing the standard-issue blue flight suit.

But Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said Denis Matveyev, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Korsakov's choice of colour had nothing to do with the country's widely condemned invasion of its eastern European neighbour.

It dismissed the connection as "a funny invention of foreign bloggers and media", according to a translated Telegram post.

"Sometimes yellow simply means yellow," wrote Dmitry Rogozin, the controversial head of Roscosmos who had been involved in a war of words with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly over the Ukraine war.

"If the Bandera geeks think that because of them we will change our colour tastes… they they are deeply mistaken," he wrote, in reference to far-right Ukrainian politician Stepan Bandera and Russia's rhetoric that it is trying to rid its neighbour of Nazis.

"Under no circumstances will we force cosmonaut graduates of Bauman University not to wear the colours of the coat of arms of their alma mater," Rogozin continued.

All three cosmonauts graduated from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, whose colours are blue and yellow.

However Artemyev offered a different response when asked why they were wearing yellow.

"It became our turn to pick a colour," he said. "We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. That's why we had to wear yellow."

But there were plenty who made the connection to Ukraine, including Rogozin's Twitter foe Kelly.

"Three Russian cosmonauts who just docked with the ISS arrive in Ukrainian yellow," the retired Navy captain wrote in both English and Russian.

Russian space enthusiast Katya Pavlushchenko tweeted two hearts in Ukraine's colours, saying it was "great to see such a warm welcome of the new crew on the ISS".

"Love their suits," she added.

The three who arrived will be on the ISS for just over six months, undertaking scientific missions. They are replacing three current crew members who will depart for Earth at the end of this month.

One of those is US astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who has just become the record holder for longest unbroken time in space by an American.

An apparent suggestion that Roscosmos was prepared to leave Vande Hei stranded because of the US's sanctions against Russia turned out to be a comedy video, with both the space agency and NASA indicating he would be making the journey home.