Novosibirsk aerodynamic physicist, chief researcher of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Zvegintsev was arrested on suspicion of treason. This became known from an open letter, which was published by the staff of the institution. They reported that over the past year, three scientists from Novosibirsk were arrested under this article. And if the media had previously reported on the detention of two of them, then the name of Zvegintsev was mentioned for the first time.
According to a TASS source at the institute, the scientist was detained three weeks ago. The reason for suspicions of treason was the publication of an article on gas dynamics in an Iranian journal. According to the interlocutor, before publication, the work passed two examinations for possible secrecy. In an open letter, the Institute’s staff asks for clarification on the line between scientific activity and treason:
“We, the staff of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, appeal to the authorities, collectives of industrial organizations, the professional scientific community, as well as to all caring citizens of our country with a request to protect Russian aerodynamic science from the impending collapse!
Over the past year, three prominent aerodynamic scientists of our institute – Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev – were arrested on suspicion of committing a crime under the most severe article of the criminal code – “high treason”.
The materials of all three criminal cases are closed, but we know from open sources that the acts for which our colleagues can spend the rest of their lives behind bars are something that all over the world, including Russia, is considered simply a mandatory component scientific activities – presentations at international seminars and conferences, publication of articles in high-ranking journals. The materials of our colleagues were repeatedly checked by the expert commission for the presence of restricted information in them, and such information was not found in them.
In this situation, we simply do not understand how to continue to do our job. What we are rewarded for today and set as an example to others, tomorrow becomes the reason for criminal prosecution. In this situation, it is simply impossible for our institute, the only academic organization in the country with an extensive base for experimental and numerical aerodynamic research, to work.
This affects not only aerodynamics. The whole society was shocked by the death of Dmitry Kolker, an arrested specialist in quantum optics from Novosibirsk, last summer. Young specialists understand that this can affect any scientific discipline, which makes working in science unattractive for them.
Scientific organizations and their employees need a clear, legally based understanding of where the line lies between working for the good of the Motherland and treason.”
A series of high-profile detentions of employees of the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics took place last June. Then the charge was brought against the deputy director of the scientific center, the famous scientist Anatoly Maslov. According to media reports, he is suspected of passing data related to hypersonics to China. After the arrest, the scientist was sent to the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center, where he celebrated his 76th birthday.
Two days later, law enforcement officers came to a private clinic for 54-year-old Dmitry Kolker. The scientist entered it the day before with the fourth stage of pancreatic cancer. A few days after being transferred to Moscow, he died. Aerodynamics physicist Alexander Shiplyuk, 55, was arrested a month later. Vadim Lebiga, a researcher at the laboratory of the Institute, where Zvegintsev, who is now detained, was working, comments:
“They were all in sight, working. Maslov was a deputy director, Sheplyuk was a director, and now he is formally a director. The authority is great. Maslov was at one time a member of the Central Executive Committee and was awarded the Order of Merit. Sheplyuk was elected a corresponding member. That is, we know them as scientists, we know them very well as employees.
– And what can you say about Zvegintsev, does he have the same area of scientific interests?
– A closed topic, so we don’t say, atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb, or rockets, or what. Closed. What can I say? Our institute is called Theoretical and Applied Mechanics – it’s not a tractor, not a seed drill. Questions of aerodynamics include aircraft of various types; aerodynamics and hydrodynamics are related fields.
“I can see from this letter how alarmed the community is. How much does it manifest itself visually in the daily routine, how worried are people?
– It is being discussed, this is natural, but there is practically no information, this is a fact.
Vasily Fomin, another colleague of Zvegintsev, scientific director of the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about how scientific works are now being tested. He noted that they cannot talk about much:
– By letter, tell me, is there any hope that you will get through to whom you need?
We don’t know where to knock.
– These are the very checks of publications, firstly, are there always checks?
— Yes, two organizations issued examination certificates. Well, they believe that these examinations are not true, that’s all.
— Are these third-party organizations or are they affiliated with your institute?
– One examination – Tomsk Polytechnic University, and the second examination of our institute, yes. And they have a third examination. What expertise, we do not know.
– The investigation orders an examination of another organization and does not even notify you from whom they ordered, who is the author?
– Yes, yes, and not only us, but all. Appoints an examination, what kind of examination, we do not know. Although the Academy of Sciences considers it necessary and has made a special commission that can give expertise on this matter too.
– In general, has it become harder to work in the last year?
— Work something? Take a bag and carry it, what is harder there, work is work, what is there.
The cases of scientists are commented on by the former lawyer of the physicist Viktor Kudryavtsev, who was arrested for treason, Evgeny Smirnov, a lawyer at the First Department Bureau:
– There is no limit, neither the law nor the officials of the FSB is defined. It is quite possible that this is a special tactic of the counterintelligence agencies, which does not allow drawing the notorious red lines in acceptable behavior for scientists. All this boils down to the fact that scientists are afraid to interact with foreign colleagues, afraid to publish in foreign scientific journals, travel to conferences and take part in international projects.
– Speaking of countries. I remember, there was an Iranian magazine, there was a performance in China.
– If we talk about practice, for which countries, then, I think, many listeners will be surprised to learn that the United States of America or the European Union are not in the first place, in favor of whom Russian scientists are allegedly cheating.
Before publication, as we understand, scientists fully comply with the letter of the law, they order one examination from an organization subordinate to the institute, order another from a third-party institute, and take the investigation and order a study in a completely different one and do not dedicate from whom they order a new examination?
“The investigation has been following this tactic for many years. The investigation orders examinations not even from organizations, but from specific experts, as a rule, these are scientists in the military field. For example, if a Russian scientist who is being prosecuted has been involved in civil aircraft construction, they are bringing in a scientist who has been involved in the production of military aircraft or military missiles all his life. Naturally, such a scientist with all the clearances and permissions of the FSB will see in any subject an analogy with a military facility and decide that there is information that constitutes a state secret. In such examinations, it comes to the point of absurdity, it was possible to repeatedly talk with these experts during the process, and they let it slip that they are given the task of finding information constituting a state secret in the materials presented.
– On the other hand, they all relate to approximately the same disciplines that we are discussing. Can we assume that some of them have become very valuable in the current geopolitical circumstances?
– The Russian authorities have been actively trying to develop hypersonics in the past ten years, we have the most modern hypersonic missiles, weapons that have no analogues, and, of course, the FSB, in order to feed such a halo of Russia’s chosenness in this area, as a rule, attracts scientists , which have at least some relation to hypersound. Therefore, yes, this is now, perhaps, the most dangerous topic in Russia.
According to TASS, Zvegintsev is now under house arrest. The investigation did not comment on the case of the scientist at the time of publication of the material.