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Space 'to remain Russian priority'

Russia's president has pledged to uphold the nation's pre-eminence in space as the country marks the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first human space flight.

Russia must not lose its edge in space, president Dmitry Medvedev declared on a visit to Mission Control outside Moscow.

Mr Medvedev had a brief conference call with the Russian, US and Italian crew of the International Space Station, congratulating them on the date and wishing them success in their own mission.

Cosmonauts and space officials will gather later at the Kremlin for an award ceremony.

On Monday, cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya warned that Russia risks losing its edge in space by relying exclusively on Soviet-era achievements and doing little to design new spacecraft.

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