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January 14, 2015

Crew evacuates part of space station

But all are safe, officials say

MOSCOW - The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) evacuated its U.S. section on Wednesday because of a leak of "harmful substances" from the cooling system but all are safe and the situation is under control, Russian space officials said. 

The six crew - three Russians, two Americans and an Italian - were now in the Russian section of the orbiting station after what Russian news agency Interfax had initially described as an ammonia leak.

"The U.S. section of the ISS has been isolated, the crew are safe and in the Russian section," Maxim Matyushin, head of  Russia's Mission Control Center, said in a statement.

"The concentration of impurities in the atmosphere in the Russian section of the ISS is within permissible levels."

The statement said it was now up to the United States to decide what further action might have to be taken to deal with the problem in the U.S. section. The crew's health was not in danger, it added.

The space laboratory is a 15-nation project which is overseen by Russia and the United States.

 It has been held up as a model of post-Cold War cooperation but Russian-U.S. relations have been strained by the Ukraine crisis and Russia has said it will reject a U.S. request to prolong the station's use beyond 2020.