Tim Peake feared being stranded on space station, says Foreign Office minister


British astronaut Tim Peake feared being left stuck in space if the West's relations with Russia deteriorated, a Foreign Office minister has said.

Tobias Ellwood told MPs he had received assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Peake will not be abandoned on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Tory frontbencher, who said he is a friend of Peake, raised the issue with Putin during the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Tobias Ellwood MP

A Russian Soyuz FG rocket blasted Peake into space in December, and he is spending six months on board the ISS.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on Anglo-Russian relations, Ellwood said: "I had the opportunity to meet President Putin at the Baku Azerbaijan Games last year and wasn't quite expecting to see him, I have to say.

Vladimir Putin

"But I did say to him that a friend of mine had cause to use Russian transport and was a bit concerned about international developments - the East and West - and he might get stuck at the end of his destination and not be able to get back.

"That friend of mine was called Tim Peake, he was using a Soyuz space capsule to get himself up to the International Space Station and didn't want to be abandoned up there.

British astronaut Tim Peake

"Mr Putin grabbed my arm and said, 'Mr Ellwood, tell Mr Peake we will not abandon him'.

"And that gives you an indication to say that it is possible to isolate some of these enormous concerns that we have, the sanctions that take place, that allow us to work on the international stage to tackle some of these areas, but also culturally and professionally and indeed from an industrial perspective, commercial perspective, to be able to continue these relationships."