While state relations between the UK and Russia have been very rocky over the poisoning assassination of the ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko using a Russian lunar rover nuclear isotope, and Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine, at museum level, at least, relations remain very good.

For example, in 2010 the ex-Royal Navy cruiser HMS Belfast had restoration done which was partly funded by donations from Russian firms. The donations were in recognition of the bravery and service that the Royal Navy and UK’s Merchant Marine did in fighting off German bombers, battle cruisers and U-boats attempting to intercept their arctic convoys bound for Murmansk and Archangel during World War II.  In fact, HMS Belfast was even involved in the sinking of the convoy-raiding German battle cruiser Scharnhorst in the Battle of the North Cape in late 1943.

Valentina Tereshkova in her space suit. Courtesy: Roscosmos via ESA

Valentina Tereshkova in her space suit. Courtesy: Roscosmos via ESA

In the same vein, London’s Science Museum is about to exhibit a major exhibition of Soviet and Russian space hardware lent to it by Russia.  While the “Cosmonauts: The Birth of the Space Age” exhibition, which starts in September, is expected to pull in the crowds, there is a problem.  Russia has been ordered by an international tribunal in the Hague to pay US$50 billion to shareholders of the Yukos oil company after the company was taken from them illegally by the Russian State.   While Russia is legally fighting this verdict, the fear was that following the verdict, law courts might have ordered the seizure of the loaned Russian government owned assets, including the space articles.

So, according to the Sunday Times (26 July 2015), in a cunning plan, the Science Museum has now taken direct ownership of the items – at least for the length of the show.  The exhibit items include the first woman Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova’s Vostok space capsule, early spacesuits including those for dogs and monkeys, and a cup used by the key soviet space designer S.P. Korolev.