Home Russia Russia: Septuagenarian Scientist Faces 17 Years In Prison For Espionage

Russia: Septuagenarian Scientist Faces 17 Years In Prison For Espionage

FILE PHOTO Of Moscow. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Prosecutors have demanded a 17-year prison sentence for an elderly Russian scientist who is accused of handing secret information to German intelligence, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Thursday.

Anatoly Maslov, 77, is accused of treason in a trial that is closed to the media.

Kommersant said the defence argued such a jail term would be tantamount to a death sentence, given Maslov’s age and poor state of health. It quoted one of his lawyers as saying he suffered a heart attack at the start of this year.

Maslov, arrested in June 2022, is one of three scientists from the same Siberian institute who are all accused of betraying state secrets.

They all worked in hypersonics, the study of objects moving at ultra-high speeds, which underpins the development of hypersonic missiles – cutting-edge weapons capable of carrying payloads at up to 10 times the speed of sound to punch through air-defence systems.

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The scientists deny their guilt. The cases became public last year when colleagues at their institute published an open letter in their support and said the prosecutions threatened to inflict grave damage on Russian science.

Last month Alexander Kuranov, another scientist who worked on hypersonic technologies, was convicted of treason and received a seven year prison sentence. He too was accused of passing state secrets to foreign nationals.

Russia has been mindful of its scientists being “flipped” by Western intelligence agencies. Over the years and perhaps more so since the Ukraine war, it has tightened controls over scientific institutions and research centres, while also keeping a weather eye on the loyalties of the scientific community.

But the Maslov incident would be an embarrassment for the government and its agencies.  Clearly, there are chinks in Russia’s ‘iron curtain’, chinks which enabled Maslov to be identified, contacted and ‘flipped’.

Penalties will be harsh and one waits to see if any concession is made for Maslov given his age.