Meeting with cosmonauts Marina Vasilevskaya and Oleg Novitsky

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are meeting with member of the prime crew of Visiting Expedition 21 Marina Vasilevskaya and cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky in the Kremlin.

It is symbolic that the meeting with the cosmonauts of Belarus and Russia is taking place on Cosmonautics Day. Marina Vasilevskaya and Oleg Novitsky have recently returned from the International Space Station. This event is particularly significant for Belarus as Marina Vasilevskaya was the first cosmonaut in the history of independent Belarus. On the ISS, Marina Vasilevskaya  conducted a series of studies for Belarusian science.

Vladimir Putin congratulated the cosmonauts and other people working in this field on Cosmonautics Day.

Aleksandr Lukashenko once again expressed gratitude to the Russian side for cooperation and support in the field of space.

“This is nothing new for you, but this is a big deal for us, because our first female cosmonaut flew into space. The first cosmonaut of independent Belarus. And Oleg is also ours: he was born near Minsk. His mother lives there, we have met recently. This is symbolic. Therefore I am very grateful to you. I am saying this not because you are hosting me. Had you not given the go-ahead then, this flight would not have happened. Thank you for Marina and thank you for Oleg being the commander of this flight. This is what our unity is about: he was born in Belarus, served in the Soviet Union (pilot, test pilot), became a cosmonaut in Russia,” the president noted.

The head of state noted that Belarusians are not new to cosmonautics. The president has closely studied this field: he has visited various cosmodromes and  institutions in various countries, examined technical aspects of cosmonautics.

“Belarus and Russia are working very seriously on joint programs. We are running satellite programs together. We have preserved satellite production factories since Soviet times. We are working together with Russians. Now we have manned flights. I told Vladimir Vladimirovich that we will continue our collaborations. He upheld this idea yesterday,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“Optics are on you,” Vladimir Putin remarked.

“Sure thing. Our optics, by the way, are not worse than in the West. Therefore, we have agreed to work together, this includes flying into space, we will work in the training center [for cosmonauts] and in other places where our pilots are trained,” the Belarusian leader added.

“I congratulate you on your return to Earth,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said addressing the cosmonauts. “You gave us a hard time, especially me: when the rocket didn’t launch from the first attempt, I had a very bad feeling. But my apprehensions faded away. Everything turned out well. Everything is fine, everything worked. You returned on time, carried out the necessary experiments. I think that we will see more joint flights of Russians and Belarusians moving forward,” the president said.

Plans are truly ambitious: in the coming years Russia plans to launch the first module of its orbital station. This will open up great prospects for cooperation between Belarus and Russia.

Oleg Novitsky emphasized that fraternal and allied relations between the two states are worth a lot. According to him, the training of the Belarusian cosmonauts went well: according to the instructors, both women worked very hard. “Marina was absolutely up to the task,” the cosmonaut said.

He also wished the presidents Happy Cosmonautics Day and thanked them for their contribution to the development of this industry in Belarus and Russia. "It is very gratifying that our equipment is really the most reliable. Alexei Ovchinin landed safely after a booster rocket failed after launch. In our case the launch was aborted automatically: Marina had a pulse of 66. Everybody was cool. Tracy [crew member, NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson] was calm. Our equipment does not fail," Oleg Novitsky said. 

Marina Vasilevskaya admitted that she was happy to become the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus. "I tried my best to complete the program 100% and even more. Flying into space is an outstanding event for our country. I would like to continue my space career. I am happy, glad and proud that this project has become a reality."

The heads of state continued their conversation in a one-on-one format.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with a large family of reindeer herders.

The large Pyak family are reindeer herders living in the tundra of Yamal. Enksya and Zoya Pyak are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their marriage, and the presidents took the opportunity to wish them a happy wedding anniversary. 

The event was also attended by cosmonauts Marina Vasilevskaya and Oleg Novitsky.

"We have guests here. The first female cosmonaut of Belarus, and the Belarusian president. Today we celebrate the Cosmonautics Day. Together we wish a happy golden wedding anniversary to you. And your whole big family. We wish you all the best and every success. I hope to see you again. I know that one of your grandchildren wants to watch the launch of a spacecraft. We will definitely make your grandson's wish come true," Vladimir Putin said and gave the floor to the Belarusian head of state. 

"I also join the congratulations from the Russian president. Golden wedding. It is a big deal and a rare occasion today. A good occasion. Vladimir Vladimirovich told me in detail about your meeting at VDNKh," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He also expressed confidence that the space officials will invite their family to see the most beautiful thing - the launch of a spacecraft. 

"I thank Vladimir Putin for the invitation to join this conversation. For me, it is very symbolic and important to talk to people who are far, far away and who are engaged in this kind and good business as reindeer breeding. Good luck to you! Long trouble-free years to you and your children and grandchildren. Reindeer herding is a rare profession indeed. Thank you very much. I wish you success and happiness," the Belarusian leader added.

The cosmonauts also congratulated the reindeer herders' family on their wedding anniversary. Marina Vasilevskaya wished them good health and all the best.