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U.S. Space Command calls Russian satellites' activity "unusual and disturbing"

Moscow — Russia's Foreign Ministry was working on its response to concerns voiced by the United States military earlier this week about the "disturbing" behavior of a pair of Russian spacecraft that flew near a U.S. government satellite.

Russian satellites, launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome last November, were maneuvering very close to the U.S. satellite in what Space Command chief General John Raymond has called "unusual and disturbing behavior."

Raymond, commander of the still-new U.S. Space Command, said in a statement provided to CBS News this week that the two satellites were acting similarly to another set of satellites Russia deployed about three years ago. He said the Russian government had characterized those as "inspector satellites."

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U.S. General John W. Raymond and President Donald Trump pose during an event establishing the new U.S. Space Command in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 29, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

"The Russian satellites launched in 2017 exhibited characteristics of a weapon when one of those satellites released a high-speed projectile into space," Raymond said this week. "Similar activities in any other domain would be interpreted as potentially threatening behavior. This is unusual and disturbing behavior and has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space. The United States finds these recent activities to be concerning and do not reflect the behavior of a responsible spacefaring nation."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed Tuesday that Russia had been contacted by U.S. officials about the issue.

"We in fact received appropriate signals from them, and we (will) give answers to these signals after they are processed internally in necessary formats," Ryabkov said according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

Russian media have said the newer Russian satellite in question is the Kosmos-2542. It was launched on November 26 and later released another satellite, the Kosmos 2543. Russia's Defense Ministry previously described the satellites as a "multifunctional space platform" for inspection of other satellites from a close distance.

Raymond told TIME magazine that, at times, the Russian satellites came within 100 miles of the U.S. satellite. TIME said the U.S. satellite, known as KH-11, monitors foreign military installations.

Ryabkov said Russia has long called for an international treaty against weapons in space.

CBS News requested a comment for this story from the Russian Ministry of Defense, but received no response by the time of publication. 

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