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Spain: No Evidence of Criminal Misconduct in Migrant Deaths

Spanish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into the deaths of more than 20 migrants last June at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave city of Melilla, saying in a statement Friday they found no evidence of criminal misconduct by Spanish security forces.

Prosecutors said they spent six months investigating what happened when hundreds of migrants — some estimates say around 2,000 — stormed the Melilla border fence in northwest Africa from the Moroccan side in an attempt to reach European soil. At least 23 migrants were officially reported dead, though human rights groups say the number was higher.

“It cannot be concluded that the conduct of the (Spanish) security officers involved increased the threat to the life and well-being of the immigrants, so no charge of reckless homicide can be brought,” said the Spanish prosecutors.

The migrants, according to the prosecutors’ statement, were “hostile and violent.”

Hundreds of men, some wielding sticks, climbed over the fence from Moroccan territory and were corralled into a border crossing area. When they managed to break through the gate to the Spanish side, a stampede apparently led to the crushing of many people.

Moroccan police launched tear gas and beat men with batons, even when some were prone on the ground. Spanish guards surrounded a group that managed to get through before apparently sending them back.

The clash ended with African men, clearly injured or even dead, piled on top of one another while Moroccan police in riot gear looked on.

The Spanish prosecutors said that “at no point did (Spanish) security officers have reason to believe that there were people at risk who required help.”

Spanish security officers who turned 470 of the immigrants back to Morocco did so in accordance with their duty and in conformity with Spain’s immigration law, the statement said.

So-called “pushbacks” — the forcible return of people across an international border without an assessment of their rights to apply for asylum or other protection, violating both international and EU law — are a contentious issue in Europe.

The prosecutors did fault some security officers who threw rocks at the immigrants, recommending disciplinary procedures against them.

Amnesty International said earlier this month that the handling of the investigation by Spain and Morocco, which has remained mostly silent on the matter, “smacks of a cover-up and racism.”

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Зеленський подякував США за виділення 45 мільярдів доларів для України

Президент подякував керівництву Конгресу за «непохитну двопартійну підтримку України в боротьбі за свободу»

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Bloomberg: у Китаї 37 млн людей заразилися COVID-19 за один день

За даними видання, за перші 20 днів грудня коронавірусною інфекцією заразилося 248 мільйонів людей, тобто майже 18% населення країни

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US Approves Patriot Missiles, New $45B Aid Package for Ukraine

The United States House of Representatives on Friday approved a $45 billion aid package for Ukraine. The measure, part of a $1.66 trillion government funding bill that passed the Senate a day earlier, will now go to President Joe Biden for signing into law. This package follows U.S. aid worth about $50 billion sent to Ukraine previously this year.

The move comes after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wartime visit to Washington this week.

Upon his return to Kyiv, Zelenskyy defiantly said Ukrainian forces “are working toward victory” despite Russia’s relentless artillery, rocket and mortar fire and airstrikes on Ukraine.

“We will overcome everything,” Zelenskyy pledged on Telegram. “We are coming back from Washington with … something that will really help.”

The U.S. promised Patriot missiles to help Ukraine fight against the Russian invasion. Zelenskyy has long asked for Patriot missiles to help counter Russian airstrikes, which have destroyed cities, towns and villages during 10 months of conflict and knocked out power and water supplies across the country over the past three months.

Zelenskyy thanked Biden and the U.S. Congress for supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

U.S. officials say, however, that the single Patriot battery that Biden promised to supply to Ukraine will not change the course of the war.

Washington and its allies have been unwilling to supply Kyiv with modern battle tanks and long-range missiles called ATACMS, which can reach far behind front lines and into Russia itself.

Both Kyiv and the Biden administration are wary that retaining U.S. congressional support for aid could become more complicated once Republicans take a slim majority in the House in the new year. A few right-wing Republicans oppose aid, and other lawmakers have called for tighter budget oversight.

During a Friday visit to Tula, Russia, a center for arms manufacturing, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the country’s defense industry chiefs to do more to ensure that the Russian army quickly receive all the weapons, equipment and military hardware it needs to fight in Ukraine.

“The most important key task of our military-industrial complex is to provide our units and front-line forces with everything they need: weapons, equipment, ammunition and gear in the necessary quantities and of the right quality in the shortest possible time frames,” he said.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday in its intelligence update on Ukraine that Putin has been “presented with plans to expand the Russian military by around 30% to 1.5 million personnel.”

The ministry said that the proposal was made Wednesday and that “Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained that the expansion would involve at least two brigades in northwestern Russia growing to divisional strength.”

The British defense minister explained Russia’s move by citing “the supposed threat from Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO.”

“This constitutes one of the first insights into how Russia aspires to adapt its forces to the long-term strategic challenges resulting from its invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry update said. “It remains unclear how Russia will find the recruits to complete such an expansion at a time when its forces are under unprecedented pressure in Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy’s Washington visit

In Western Europe, Zelenskyy’s visit to the U.S. Capitol was seen as symbolic, a message to the world that the U.S. will continue to support Ukraine in its fight for survival.

Observers in the region were pleased to hear Biden point to the need to “maintain NATO unity” when it came to arms supplies.

“This strongly suggests that it is not the U.S. but other influential NATO states that are not convinced of the need to support Ukraine even more intensively,” Polish historian Lukasz Adamski of the Mieroszewski Center in Warsaw told VOA.

Putin, however, said Zelenskyy’s trip only fueled the conflict.

“They say they may send Patriot there, fine. We will crack the Patriot, too,” Putin told reporters. He said the delivery of the battery “only drags out the conflict.”

In Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s Washington visit symbolized the war-honed relationship between two countries.

It was important for Ukrainians and Zelenskyy to convey their appreciation of the unwavering support the U.S. has shown their country, Mykola Davydiuk, a Ukrainian political analyst and director at Think Tank Politics, told VOA.

Putin said Russia is ready for talks with Ukraine on ending the conflict, despite his assessment that the U.S. delivery of a Patriot missile battery would extend it.

“One way or another, all armed conflicts end with talks,” Putin said. “The sooner this understanding comes to those who oppose us, the better. We never rejected the talks.

“We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner, the better, of course,” he added.

The White House quickly countered Putin’s comments.

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said Putin had “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” an end to the war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“Everything he [Putin] is doing on the ground and in the air bespeaks a man who wants to continue to visit violence upon the Ukrainian people [and] escalate the war,” Kirby told reporters, according to Reuters.

Also Thursday, Kirby said U.S. intelligence officers had determined that North Korea had completed an initial shipment of arms, including rockets and missiles, to the private Russian military company Wagner Group last month. The action was seen as a sign of the group’s expanding role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The British government also condemned the shipment.

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said no effort had been made for North Korea to supply weapons to Russia and dismissed the talk as “gossip and speculation,” Reuters reported.

The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry denied the reports, calling them groundless.

Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze contributed to this report. Some material for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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У МАГАТЕ розповіли про результати переговорів Гроссі в Москві

Гендиректор МАГАТЕ заявив, що вчорашня багатогодинна зустріч стала «черговим раундом необхідних обговорень щодо створення захисної зони для Запорізької АЕС»

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Notorious French Serial Killer Freed from Nepal Prison

Confessed French serial killer Charles Sobhraj was freed from prison in Nepal on Friday after serving most of his sentence for the murders of American and Canadian backpackers.

Sobhraj was driven out of Central Jail in Kathmandu in a heavily guarded police convoy to the Department of Immigration, where he will wait for his travel documents to be prepared.

The country’s Supreme Court had ordered that Sobhraj, who was sentenced to life in prison in Nepal, be released because of poor health, good behavior and having already served most of his sentence. Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years.

The order also said he had to leave the country within 15 days.

Sobhraj’s attorney Gopal Siwakoti Chitan told reporters that the request for the travel documents must be made by the immigration department to the French embassy in Nepal, which could take some time. Offices are closed over the weekend for the Christmas holiday.

The court document said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence, making him eligible for release, and he has heart disease.

The Frenchman has in the past admitted killing several Western tourists and he is believed to have killed at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong during the 1970s. However, his 2004 conviction in Nepal was the first time he was found guilty in court.

Sobhraj was held for two decades in New Delhi’s maximum-security Tihar prison on suspicion of theft but was deported without charge to France in 1997. He resurfaced in September 2003 in Kathmandu.

His nickname, The Serpent, stems from his reputation as a disguise and escape artist.

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Massive Winter Storm Brings Frigid Temps, Snow and Ice to US

Tens of millions of Americans endured bone-chilling temperatures, blizzard conditions, power outages and canceled holiday gatherings Friday from a winter storm that forecasters said was nearly unprecedented in its scope, exposing about 60% of the U.S. population to some sort of winter weather advisory or warning.

More than 200 million people were under an advisory or warning on Friday, the National Weather Service said. The weather service’s map “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” forecasters said.

More than 3,400 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were canceled Friday, according to the tracking site FlightAware, causing more mayhem as travelers try to make it home for the holidays. Some airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, closed runways.

More than 458,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning.

The huge storm stretched from border to border. In Canada, WestJet canceled all flights Friday at Toronto Pearson International Airport, beginning at 9 a.m. And in Mexico, migrants waited near the U.S. border in unusually cold temperatures as they awaited a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether and when to lift pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum.

“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday after a briefing from federal officials. “This is serious stuff.”

Forecasters said a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — had developed near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.

Among those with canceled flights was Ashley Sherrod, who planned to fly from Nashville, Tennessee, to Flint, Michigan, on Thursday afternoon.

“My family is calling, they want me home for Christmas, but they want me to be safe, too,” said Sherrod, whose bag — including the Grinch pajamas she was planning to wear to a family party — was packed and ready by the door.

Activists also were rushing to get the homeless out of the cold. In Chicago, Andy Robledo planned to spend the day organizing efforts to check on unhoused people who have received tents, propane heaters and other supplies through his nonprofit, Feeding People Through Plants.

Robledo and volunteers build the tents modeled on ice-fishing tents, including a plywood subfloor, and offer them to people living on the streets in Chicago.

“It’s not a house, it’s not an apartment, it’s not a hotel room. But it’s a huge step up from what they had before,” Robledo said.

In Portland, Oregon, officials opened four emergency shelters. It was so cold in the city that Taylor Bailey lost all sensation in her hands as she cycled to her job at at iconic bike rental, repair and touring store Cycle Portland in the frigid temperatures.

“It’s the wind, really, that’s so cold. The wind is absolutely bitter,” she said Thursday, adding that even her gloves didn’t help.

The weather service is predicting the coldest Christmas in more than two decades in Philadelphia, where school officials shifted classes online Friday. Some surrounding districts canceled classes altogether.

In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem late Thursday activated the state’s National Guard to haul firewood from the Black Hills Forest Service to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe as some members were stranded in their homes with dwindling fuel.

Scot Eisenbraun, who runs a farm and ranch near Wall in western South Dakota, said he’s lost several cattle in recent days. The cold is life-threatening if you are caught outside, he said, so people travel in groups of two vehicles in case one gets stranded.

“Dress really warm and don’t get stuck outside really long,” he said.

Most of western and parts of northern Michigan were under blizzard warnings, according to the weather service. On the other side of the state, the zoo and an art museum in Detroit were closing. And to the north of the city, a rescue team used a Hovercraft to reach an injured swan Thursday that became frozen to ice on a lake.

Buffalo, New York, Mayor Byron Brown urged people to stay home as meteorologists warned that the city could see 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) of snow through the weekend.

While New England was being spared the numbing cold and snow, heavy rain and wind gusting to more than 60 mph (96 kph) knocked out power to thousands. About 150,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont had no electricity as of Friday morning, according to the region’s major utilities. There were another 100,000 outages in Connecticut.

Hundreds of utility and tree crews were deployed, but the high winds hampered them. The limit for using bucket trucks is typically 25 mph (40 kph) to 35 mph (56 kph), a utility official said.

In Maine, gusts approaching 70 mph (113 kph) were reported along the coast Friday morning. Atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast, the wind topped 130 mph (210 kph).

It was so bad in Vermont that Amtrak canceled service for the day, and nonessential state offices were closing early.

“I’m hearing from crews who are seeing grown trees ripped out by the roots,” Mari McClure, president of Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, said at a news conference.

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Зеленський назвав основні завдання для дипломатів на наступний рік

Серед завдань Володимир Зеленський назвав початок переговорів про вступ України до ЄС та підготовку до саміту НАТО

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Український посол розповів, у яких умовах перебувають командири з «Азовсталі» у Туреччині

Попри усі необхідні зручності, вони обмежені в пересуванні, бо є дані про загрозу фізичного знищення

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Окупанти проводять «жорстку фільтрацію» населення на Запоріжжі – Пологівський міський голова

«У місті стоїть безліч блокпостів, обходять будинки, перевіряють телефони. Це все було, є та продовжується»

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Two Dead, Several Wounded in Paris Shooting, Suspect Arrested

A shooter killed two people and wounded four others in a gun attack near a Kurdish cultural center in Paris on Friday, the prosecutor’s office said.

Multiple gunshots were fired in the Rue d’Enghien, a street lined with small shops and cafes in the capital’s 10th arrondissement, sowing panic. Armed police guarded a security cordon and several ambulances were at the scene, live television images showed.

“A gun attack has taken place. Thank you to the security forces for their swift action,” tweeted deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire. “Thoughts for the victims and those who witnessed this drama.”

An investigation into murder, manslaughter and aggravated violence has been opened, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

A 69-year-old man had been arrested and was in detention, the prosecutor’s office added. The incident was over, it said.

Police did not indicate the motives of the alleged shooter.

One witness told French news agency AFP that seven or eight shots had been fired. A second witness, speaking to BFM TV, said the suspected gunman was a white man who opened fire in silence.


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Ткаченко: Маріупольського драмтеатру «більше не існує»

«Окупанти знищують сліди своїх злочинів, і їм абсолютно все одно, чи це культурна пам’ятка чи просто надбання іншої культури»

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Дефіцит потужності в енергосистемі дещо зменшився – «Укренерго»

Водночас зберігаються певні обмеження у системі передачі електроенергії, спричинені пошкодженнями магістральних мереж російськими атаками

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Росія передала Білорусі ЗРК «Тор-М2К» – Міноборони

У Міноборони Білорусі уточнили, що цю партію озброєння Мінськ отримав в рамках міжурядової угоди про військово-технічне співробітництво між Білоруссю й Росією

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Final Report on Jan. 6 Attack Points Finger at Trump

The committee formed by the House of Representatives to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday released its final report, an 845-page set of documents supporting the committee’s claim that the attack was directly caused by former President Donald Trump and represented the final act in a “multipart conspiracy to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 Presidential election.”

The product of more than 17 months of investigation, the report is the distillation of evidence gathered from thousands of witness interviews, documents and subpoenaed electronic communications. According to the committee, “That evidence has led to an overriding and straight-forward conclusion: The central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”

Trump himself has consistently denounced the committee and its work, and has continued to insist, falsely, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Expansive report

In addition to examining the attack itself, the report describes Trump’s pressure on U.S. officials, states, legislators and then-Vice President Mike Pence to manipulate the system or violate the law.

The release of the report follows a final hearing by the committee, held on Monday, in which members accused the former president of committing multiple crimes and referred him to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement.

The referral carries no legal weight, but the voluminous records produced by the committee will supplement evidence gathered by the Justice Department in its own investigation and could influence the final decision on whether to prosecute the former president.

Major findings

The report issued Thursday builds a case that former President Trump was at the center of a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, using multiple strategies, all of which ultimately failed.

It documents efforts to pressure state and local officials to challenge or throw out election results that showed a Biden victory, even after dozens of lawsuits challenging the results were dismissed in court challenges.

After other attempts were thwarted, Trump latched on to a theory proposed by attorney John Eastman, which claimed that Pence had the authority to refuse to count the votes of specific states when Congress convened on January 6, a strategy meant to buy time to persuade state legislatures to take action to overturn state-level results. Pence ultimately refused to go along with the plan, and evidence uncovered by the committee indicates that even as he proposed it, Eastman was aware that the scheme was illegal.

Effort to corrupt DOJ

The committee report also lays out in detail what it describes as an effort by the former president to “corrupt the Department of Justice.”

In the aftermath of the election, former Attorney General William Barr informed Trump that all of the investigations into election irregularities undertaken by the Department of Justice had failed to find evidence of fraud sufficiently large to overturn the results of the balloting. In the face of Trump’s continued claims of fraud, Barr announced his resignation in December 2020.

The report documents that, in the weeks that followed, Trump took a number of steps to try to persuade senior officials in the department to issue statements expressing doubt about the results of the election.

Trump found an ally in DOJ attorney Jeffrey Clark, an official in the department’s Civil Division, who drafted a document for the department to send to election officials in Georgia, falsely claiming that the department had “significant concerns” about possible fraud that might have affected the election outcome there and in other states. The document, which was never transmitted, also urged the state legislature to consider overturning the election result in that state.

The report chronicles a dramatic showdown in the Oval Office, in which Trump proposed installing Clark as acting attorney general. The most senior officials in the department all told the president that if he took that step, they would immediately resign.

Trump knew claims were false

A crucial finding in the report, and one that was hammered home in public hearings, was that Trump knew that he had lost a fair election, having been told so unequivocally by a number of his top advisers.

The point is important, because demonstrating that the former president was not acting in good faith when he claimed that the election had been stolen and sought to have state officials produce alternative results is a key component of the fraud charges.

Trump pushed back against that claim in particular on his social media network, Truth Social, writing, “This is a total LIE. I never thought, for even a moment, that the Presidential Election of 2020 was not Rigged & Stolen, and my conviction became even stronger as time went by.”

Capitol assault

The investigative committee, formally the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, was originally conceived of as a bipartisan effort with support from leaders of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House.

It was formed to gather facts and conclusions about the events of that day, when a thousands-strong crowd of Trump supporters attended a rally near the White House, at which Trump told them to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” The mob descended on the Capitol, where lawmakers had gathered to certify now-President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

The crowd quickly became violent, and despite the presence of more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, was able to force entry into the building and force members of Congress and Pence to flee. Members of the crowd were angry at the vice president for his refusal to illegally declare Trump the victor, and many were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

The report establishes that, during the hourslong attack, President Trump was aware of what was taking place, and nevertheless sent out a tweet attacking Pence, further inflaming the crowd. Witnesses produced by the committee said that Trump declined requests by aides and members of his family to ask the rioters to leave.

Trump was eventually persuaded to ask the mob to disperse, which he did in a video address that described the rioters as “very special.” Order was eventually restored late in the day, with the help of National Guard troops, and Congress formally certified Biden’s victory.

Born in controversy

In the immediate aftermath of the assault, condemnation of the attack was bipartisan, and a proposal to fully investigate its causes received strong support from leaders on both sides. However, in the weeks that followed the assault, Republican lawmakers, taking cues from Trump, tried to minimize the seriousness of the event.

When the committee was formed in the early summer of 2021, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy nominated five Republicans, including Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks. Because Jordan, a close Trump ally, was likely to be a target of the investigation, and because Banks had publicly stated his unwillingness to cooperate with an investigation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected their appointments and requested that McCarthy name replacements. Instead, the Republican leader withdrew all five nominees and declined to offer new ones.

Pelosi replied by designating two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both of whom had continued to denounce the attack and Trump’s role in inciting it.

Beginning in the summer of 2022, the committee held a series of nine public hearings in which it laid out a comprehensive timeline of the assault itself and of the efforts to overturn the election that preceded it.

House Republican report

A competing report issued by the five House Republicans who were originally nominated to serve on the Jan. 6 committee was released Wednesday.

The report focused primarily on the security failures that led the Capitol Police and Washington Metropolitan Police Department to be underprepared for the violence at the Capitol. The report lays much of the blame for the results of the riot on Pelosi, claiming that she decided not to bring on additional security, including the National Guard, in advance of the riot.

The Republican report does not address the root causes of the riot, the actions of former President Trump on Jan. 6 and before, or the broader effort to overturn the results of the election.

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Етнічні серби висунули умови для розблокування доріг на півночі Косова 

Протестувальники вимагають виведення спецпідрозділів косовської поліції та «відкликання таємних списків на арешт і вбивство сербів»

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МЗС Румунії висловило «жаль» через закон про нацменшини, ухвалений в Україні

«Міністерство закордонних справ вважає гідним жалю, що закон був ухвалений без нових консультацій із Венеційською комісією»

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У Херсоні затримали чоловіків, які добровільно працювали охоронцями в колонії за окупації – ДБР

«Після кількох місяців російської окупації два чоловіки, які колись були водіями, добровільно відгукнулись на оголошення окупаційної влади»

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Russia Mulls Early Return of Space Station Crew After Soyuz Capsule Leak

Russia’s space agency said it is considering a plan to send an empty spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) to bring home three crew members ahead of schedule, after their Soyuz capsule sprang a coolant leak while docked to the orbiting outpost.

Roscosmos and NASA officials said at a news conference Thursday they continue to investigate how the coolant line of the capsule’s external radiator sustained a tiny puncture last week, just as two cosmonauts were preparing for a routine spacewalk.

No final decision has been made about the precise means of flying the capsule’s three crew members back to Earth, whether by launching another Soyuz to retrieve them or by the seemingly less likely option of sending them home in the leaky capsule without most of its coolant.

Last week, Sergei Krikalev, Russia’s chief of crewed space programs, said the leak could have been caused by a micrometeoroid strike. But he and his NASA counterparts have left open the possibility of other culprits, such as a hardware failure or an impact by a tiny piece of space debris.

The Dec. 14 leak prompted mission controllers in Moscow to call off the spacewalk as a live NASA webcast showed what appeared to be a flurry of snowflake-like particles spewing from the rear of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The leak lasted for hours and emptied the radiator of coolant used to regulate temperatures inside the crew compartment of the spacecraft.

NASA has said that none of the ISS crew was ever in any danger from the leak.

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin, who were suited up for the spacewalk at the time, flew to the ISS aboard the now-crippled Soyuz MS-22 capsule along with U.S. astronaut Frank Rubio in September.

They were originally scheduled to fly back on the same spacecraft in March, but Krikalev and NASA’s ISS program manager, Joel Montalbano, said Roscosmos would return them to Earth two or three weeks early if Russian space officials decide to launch an empty crew capsule for their retrieval.

Four other ISS crew members — two more from NASA, a third Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut — rode to the ISS in October via a NASA-contracted SpaceX Crew Dragon and they also remain aboard, with their capsule parked at the station.

The leak has upended Russia’s ISS routines for the weeks ahead, forcing a suspension of all future Roscosmos spacewalks as officials in Moscow shift their focus to the leaky MS-22, a designated lifeboat for its three crew members if something goes wrong aboard the space station.

Two U.S. astronauts, Rubio and Josh Cassada, conducted a seven-hour spacewalk without incident on Thursday to install a new roll-out solar array outside the station, NASA said.

If MS-22 is deemed unsafe to carry crew members back to Earth, another Soyuz capsule in line to ferry Russia’s next crew to the station in March would instead “be sent up unmanned to have (a) healthy vehicle on board the station to be able to rescue crew,” Krikalev, Roscosmos’ executive director for human spaceflight, told reporters.

No mention was made of possibly sending a spare SpaceX Dragon for crew retrieval.

Pinpointing the cause of the leak could factor into decisions about the best way to return crew members.

The recent Geminid meteor shower initially seemed to raise the odds of a micrometeoroid strike as the origin, but the leak was facing the wrong way for that to be the case, Montalbano said, though a space rock could have come from another direction.

Sending the stricken MS-22 back to Earth unfixed with humans aboard appeared an unlikely choice given the vital role the coolant system plays to prevent overheating of the capsule’s crew compartment, which Montalbano and Krikalev said was currently being vented with air flow allowed through an open hatch to the ISS.

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January 6 Committee Releases Final Report of Findings

US lawmakers investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol released the final report of their findings Thursday. After a year and a half of investigation and more than a thousand witnesses, investigators alleged former President Donald Trump played a key role in encouraging the attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson has more.