Ex-NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Calls Vladimir Putin 'Mass Murderer'

Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has vowed to continue speaking out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine after having a heated argument with the head of Russia's space agency earlier this month.

In a tweet on Sunday, Kelly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "mass murderer and war criminal" amid Russia's continued attacks on Ukrainian cities, which killed 902 civilians in Ukraine between February 24 and March 19, including 11 girls and 25 boys, in addition to 39 other children whose sex wasn't known, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 20.

Kelly had tweeted earlier on Sunday that he would "continue my efforts to get accurate news to the Russian people about this immoral and unjust war".

In an interview with Russian- and English-language news outlet Meduza over the weekend, Kelly said he wanted to use his online platform to convey information to his Russian followers that isn't controlled by the Russian state.

"In the beginning, I did it in a rather outrageous way, just to get attention," he said. "You know, if I just retweeted you or posted links to your articles, then it would not create such a stir."

Throughout its invasion of Ukraine, Russia's government has restricted its citizens' access to international media, including blocking Facebook, Twitter and news outlets such as the BBC and Voice of America.

As a result, Russians have flocked to mobile application stores in order to download virtual private network (VPN) apps in the hope that they will be able to get around online restrictions.

Kelly, meanwhile, has been sharing photos and videos of the destruction caused by Russian attacks on civilian areas of Ukraine.

Kelly's recent tweets come after the former astronaut said he would tone down his criticism of Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, after a NASA warning.

The email, seen by CNN, reportedly stated that while former astronauts enjoy freedom of speech, "attacking our Russian partners is damaging to our mission."

Kelly told CNN that he had "backed off Rogozin" after seeing that email, but added that he would continue opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine more generally.

Earlier this month, Kelly suggested Rogozin could "find a job at McDonald's" as Russia's space agency becomes increasingly isolated. It came after Rogozin made some heated remarks himself, including suggesting that the International Space Station (ISS) could fall out of orbit if Russia stopped participating in it. Rogozin eventually blocked Kelly on Twitter.

Vladimir Putin (L) and Scott Kelly
Russian president Vladimir Putin (L) seen making a public address at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 21, 2022, and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (R) seen on the International Space Station (ISS) in July, 2015. Kelly has said he will continue criticizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Twitter. Sputnik/AFP/Alexey Nikolsky/NASA/Getty