February 26, 2021

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Russia slams US for omitting Gagarin from space tribute

The US used a “base trick” when it left out Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin from their Facebook post on the annivesary of his launch, Moscow said. The post was published on State Department’s Russian language page.

Russian diplomats slammed their US colleagues on Sunday, accusing them of spreading disinformation on Facebook.
The State Department sparked Moscow’s displeasure by posting a picture and a caption to mark the International Day of Human Space flight on their Russian-language profile, but failing to mention Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel to space.
Gagarin was launched into orbit from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 12, 1961, and landed safely in southwest Russia on the same day. His trip preceeded the American launch by over three weeks, and the International Day of Human Space Flight is now marked on its anniversary.
In their Sunday Facebook post, however, the US State Department published only a picture showing a stylized image of a rocket ship and the caption “The first human space flight was completed 59 years ago” in Russian.

‘Post-truth era’
In response, Russian Foreign Ministry posted a screenshot of the US post with a red arrow pointing to a headshot of Gagarin, and a line reading “We remind our State Department colleagues, the first man in space was called Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.”  In the caption,  they specify Gagarin was a Soviet cosmonaut.
“Not noting this is desinformation and a base trick of the post-truth era,” Russian diplomats wrote.
The State Department did not immediately respond.
Gagarin’s space flight was a massive propaganda boon for the Soviet Union and a blow to the US, with the two superpowers engaging in a race to develop space-era technology during the Cold War. Despite more restricted resources, the Soviet Union maintained a highly advanced space program, staying ahead of the US by launching the first artificial satelite in 1957, sending the first man into space in 1961, the first woman in 1963, and organizing the first space walk in 1965. However, the US managed to close the gap and overtake their rivals by organizing the first Moon landing in 1969.
Despite political tensoins, Moscow and Washington are now cooperating closely in staffing and maintaining the International Space Station, with Russian modules transporting US astronauts into orbit.

dj/rc (Interfax, AP)