May 23, 2023

Thank You For Your Service


Thank You For Your Service
The supersonic missile Kinzhal mounted on a MIG-31. The Presidential Press and Information Office, Wikimedia Commons

Valery Zvegintsev, Alexander Shiplyuk, and Anatoly Maslov, three scientists at the Novosibirsk Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ITAM) who were engaged in the creation of hypersonic weaponry, have been arrested for treason.

Novaya Gazeta Europe journalists report that the case is classified. It is only known that the interest of law enforcement officers in Zvegintsev was caused by his publication of an article in an Iranian magazine. According to Academ.info, Maslov might be suspected of transferring data related to hypersonic technologies to China. At the same time, colleagues at ITAM noted that Zvegintsev’s work, as well as scientific publications by Maslov and Shiplyuk, "were repeatedly checked by the expert commission for the presence of restricted access information in them, and such information was not found."

The Moscow Times reported that Shiplyuk and Maslov have been engaged in hypersonic missile development for over a decade. Such missiles fly at speeds of at least Mach5, are highly maneuverable, and are able to change course during flight.

In 2018, President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of the weapons during a message to the Federal Assembly. Putin showed deputies, senators, and officials, the anti-ship missile Zircon, the intercontinental ballistic missile Avangard, and the hypersonic missile Kinzhal (which means "Dagger"). According to the president, the Kinzhal is "guaranteed to overcome" the existing air defense and missile defense systems.

However, on May 4, the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced that it had shot down Kinzhal missiles with Patriot air defense systems that Kyiv received from Germany and the Netherlands. Later, this information was officially confirmed by the Pentagon.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the detention of scientists involved in hypersonic weapons.

Nevertheless, the arrests set the scientific community on edge. Scientists at the Siberian Branch of the RAS have written an open letter to authorities saying that they are worried about the fate of their colleagues and do not understand how they are to continue working. "We see that any article or report can cause accusations of treason. What we are rewarded for today, for which we are held up as an example to others, tomorrow becomes the basis for a criminal prosecution," the letter reads.

In total, 16 scientists in the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have been prosecuted. This branch is particularly well-known for its strengths in physics and mathematics. One of the scientists, 54-year-old Dmitry Kolker, head of the Laboratory of Quantum Optical Technologies at Novosibirsk State University, died in a Moscow pre-trial detention center.

Russia's article of the Criminal Code on treason is applied quite often. According to the human rights initiative "Team 29," between 1997 and 2017, about a hundred persons were convicted of treason and espionage. Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the law has been applied even more frequently. 

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