Germany and France slam Russia for satellite strike

Russia on Tuesday (Nov 16) admitted to having destroyed one of its unused satellites during a missile test a day earlier. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN/PARIS (AFP, REUTERS, NYTIMES) - Germany's government said on Tuesday (Nov 16) it was very concerned by Russia's destruction of one of its own satellites during a missile test, calling for urgent measures to strengthen security and confidence.

"We call on all states to engage constructively in this process and in the development of principles for responsible behaviour in space," the Germany foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia on Tuesday admitted to having destroyed one of its unused satellites during a missile test a day earlier, provoking criticism from the United States and several European countries.

The US said the strike had created a cloud of debris and forced the crew of the International Space Station to take evasive action, a claim that Moscow rejected.

"This irresponsible behaviour carries a risk of error of judgement and escalation," the German statement said.

"The test underlines the risks and growing threats for security and stability in space and the urgent need for the international community to agree on rules for the peaceful and lasting use of space and on measures aimed at reinforcing safety and confidence," said the ministry.

France on Tuesday also condemned Russia's move.

"It is destabilising, irresponsible and likely to have consequences for a very long time in the space environment and for all actors in space," the French foreign and armed forces ministries said in a joint statement.

The Russian weapon, identified in Russian news reports as possibly an S-500 Prometey missile, blew up a long-defunct Soviet signal intelligence satellite that had been launched in 1982 and orbited silently for years.

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The blast created more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris and is likely to eventually generate hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, according to the US State Department, which was sharply critical of the test for posing dangers to satellites and crewed spaceships.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement Monday, sharply criticised the test as recklessly conducted.

The US Space Command said the debris is likely to remain in orbit for years or even decades, adding to a vast array of space junk.

A few days before the Russian test, the space station had to dodge debris from a 2007 Chinese weapons test.

Managing space junk has been a looming problem for years. The Russian test added to an already vast swarm of junk in orbit, including old satellites, parts of rockets and debris from earlier anti-satellite weapon tests by China, India and the US.

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