© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2003
World leaders were united in expressing condolences to the United States and Israel for the loss of the seven astronauts aboard space shuttle Columbia.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was told of the U.S. space shuttle disaster as soon as it became known, and the Russian Space Agency was quick to offer both condolences and assistance if requested by the United States, a space agency spokesman said.
The Russian Space Forces, the military branch that manages the country's nuclear rockets and military satellites, also sent its condolences.
The agency said the accident would not interfere with today's planned launch from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome of an unmanned Progress M-47 supply ship, which is carrying food, fuel and equipment to the international space station.
"It is a shock for us," the agency's chief spokesman, Sergei Gorbunov, told the Interfax news services. "One can draw the conclusion that it's hard to survive in this kind of situation. We are following the situation and are expressing our condolences."
Government officials around the world also expressed shock and sadness at the tragedy:
Belgium: Minister for Scientific Research Charles Picque expressed regret at the "immense human tragedy."
Canada: "The seven astronauts on board were accomplished women and men of great courage who put their extraordinary skills and knowledge to the service of humankind," Prime Minister Jean Chretien said. "Each one was a hero."
France: "In the name of the French people, forever a friend to the American people, I express to you the profound emotion and feeling of solidarity in the ordeal that all my compatriots are feeling," President Jacques Chirac wrote to President Bush.
Germany: In a letter of condolence to Bush, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder paid tribute to the "courageous men and women" who died. India: "For us in India, the fact that one of them (the astronauts) was an India-born woman adds a special poignancy to the tragedy," said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, referring to Kalpana Chawla. "Our hearts go out to the families of the bright young men and women who worked on that spacecraft."
Italy: Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he was "deeply shaken by today's tragedy. In the name of the Italian people and government, I express condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims and with the American people."
European Union: Commission President Romano Prodi told Italian news agencies in Bologna the "enormous tragedy" occurred "in the service of progress, science and in this case, we can really say humanity."
Luxembourg: "The United States has written most of the most beautiful pages in the history of space conquest," Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told Bush. "However this accident reminds us that conquest and the progress of science in the interests of humanity, which is so closely linked to it, remains a project full of dangers."
Mexico: The Foreign Relations Department "expressed its condolences to the government and people of the United States."
Poland: Prime Minister Leszek Miller sent letters of condolence to Bush and Sharon, a government spokesman said.
United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote letters to President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to "express the government's sadness and offer his condolences," his office said.
-- Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.