In mid-March, three Russian cosmonauts arriving at the International Space Station (ISS) were photographed wearing yellow and blue flight suits, a move that led some to speculate they were supporting Ukraine, since those are the colors on the country’s flag. Now, the American astronaut who was also on the ISS said the cosmonauts were “blindsided” by the speculation.
As The Daily Wire reported at the time, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev said that the yellow was completely coincidental and that each crew chooses its own colors.
“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. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said after being asked about the suits.
Artemyev also addressed the speculation days after his initial comments, saying “There is no need to look for any hidden signs or symbols in our uniform,” the Associated Press reported at the time.
“A color is simply a color. It is not in any way connected to Ukraine. Otherwise, we would have to recognize its rights to the yellow sun in the blue sky,” he added. “These days, even though we are in space, we are together with our president and our people!”
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei said on Tuesday in his first press conference since returning to Earth last week that the Russian cosmonauts were “blindsided” by speculation that they were supporting Ukraine with their flight suits.
Artemyev, along with Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, originally wore blue flight suits on the day their spacecraft docked with the ISS, but he and his crew then changed into yellow flight suits.
“All three of them happened to be associated with the same university, and I think they were kind of blindsided by it,” Vande Hei said, according to CNN. He also said the cosmonauts “had no idea that people would perceive that as having to do with Ukraine,” The Washington Post reported.
In that same interview, Vande Hei said that he and his Russian crewmates didn’t avoid discussions about the war.
“They weren’t very long discussions, but I did ask them how they were feeling and sometimes asked pointed questions, but our focus was on our mission together,” Vande Hei said.
Vande Hei had given the press conference after he returned from a 355-day stint aboard the ISS.
Earlier in March, many became concerned with Vande Hei, who was in the ISS when Russia first invaded Ukraine. Vande Hei had been in space for nearly a year and was scheduled to return on a Russian capsule, but the war between Russia and Ukraine – and the United States’ position – put that into question.
NASA, however, said Vande Hei would still return in the Russian capsule, the AP reported on March 14. Vande Hei landed safely in Kazakhstan last week.