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Russian astronaut denies rumors of ISS squabble

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Russian astronaut Yury Lonchakov dismissed media reports that Russian and American crewmembers were discriminating against each other on the International Space Station.
STAR CITY (Moscow Region), April 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian astronaut Yury Lonchakov dismissed media reports that Russian and American crewmembers were discriminating against each other on the International Space Station.

Media speculation that life on the orbital station was less than harmonious started after current ISS Commander Gennady Padalka told Russia's Novaya Gazeta that life on the ISS had become too commercial and facilities and food were no longer shared between crew mates.

In a press conference following Lonchakov's return from the ISS on Wednesday, the flight engineer said: "The station is not called international for nothing. People from different countries and different nationalities work there. There are no politics in space. We don't do things there like they do on Earth, but the way we have to."

However in his March interview, Russian space-veteran Padalka, 50, said that after 2003, when the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, things changed because Moscow starting charging America to send its astronauts into space which led to other space countries adopting similar policies.

Padalka said it was affecting all aspects of life on the ISS from food rations, to the U.S. fitness equipment and even toilet facilities: "Cosmonauts are above constant squabbles regardless of what officials decide...we are adults, educated, civilized."

Lonchakov, who together with U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke spent six months on the ISS, told journalists: "We can't divide Russians, Americans and Europeans. Only through joint efforts can we continue along the path of progress," adding that he, Fincke and two-time space tourist billionaire Charles Simonyi were a very friendly crew.

"Michael is a real professional, my friend. I knew him and his family even before the flight... Charles worked not as a flight participant, but as a real professional," he said.

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