When three Russian cosmonauts boarded the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, their outfits immediately drew international attention. Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov were decked out in yellow and blue: the colors of Ukraine’s flag. Their wardrobe choice was widely seen as a show of support for the nation that has endured violent attacks in recent weeks, but Russia denies the cosmonauts' suits had anything to do with the invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine roughly three weeks ago, many around the world have used the bright yellow and blue hues of the Ukrainian flag to show solidarity with the country. Outfits worn by astronauts on the ISS have historically had more subtle coloration, according to the New York Times’ Kenneth Chang, which has made some suspicious that the choice was more than a coincidence. Still, Russia has dismissed the idea that the colors have anything to do with the country's brutal invasion of Ukraine.
They. We’re asked about the color of the suits, and Oleg answered, there was too much yellow fabric accumulated in the warehouse. Except that, just usual greetings and best wishes.— Katya Pavlushchenko (@katlinegrey) March 18, 2022
Artemyev noted that each crew member selected the colors yellow and blue months before launch as a tribute to their shared alma mater, according to Haroon Siddique and Maya Yang for the Guardian.
“There is no need to look for any hidden signs or symbols in our uniform,” says Artemyev in a statement on the Russian space agency’s Telegram channel, per the Associated Press. “A color is simply a color. It is not in any way connected to Ukraine,” he said. “These days, even though we are in space, we are together with our president and our people.”
I still haven't found anyone who really knows why the Russian cosmonauts wore yellow flight suits (with Ukraine blue highlights) to board the ISS. However, this is a revealing answer from the mission commander. Just wild if they smuggled these suits on board. https://t.co/UBr1I0WauJ— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) March 18, 2022
When Artemyev arrived at the space station last week, he first credited the wardrobe choice to an abundance of yellow material in storage. "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,” Artemyev tells the AP. “So that's why we had to wear yellow.”
Though Russia has a long history of collaboration in space even during times of geopolitical tensions, the recent invasion of Ukraine has stressed the nation’s relationships. Russia’s Roscosmos space agency has suffered sanctions and severed partnerships because of its aggression, including a British satellite company that canceled the deployment of its internet satellites set to be delivered by Russian rockets. The European Space Agency announced last month that it is indefinitely suspended a mission to Mars that was slated to launch on a Russian rocket.
Artemev wearing a similar yellow suit aboard ISS in 2015.... for those who asked 'why haven't we seen yellow suits before?' https://t.co/KfwvjNw7kH— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 19, 2022
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell speculated on Twitter that the yellow suit could be a nod to the Russian cosmonauts' university affiliation, as the group all attended Bauman Moscow State Technical University. He later pointed out that Roscosmos has used yellow suits in the past.
The three cosmonauts joined two other Russians already aboard the ISS, along with four Americans and one German astronaut.