On a day Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and later inked a slew of trade and military pacts with China state officials, The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday there was no evidence of a trend that top Russian scientists were spying for China.
The articulation of such a position by The Kremlin in the backdrop of fast warming ties between Russia and China, particularly after the start of the Ukraine conflict, is significant.
Several leading Russian scientists have been arrested by Russia's counter intelligence agency in the last two years after being accused of sharing classified military secrets with China.
A top Russian scientist Alexander Shiplyuk, 57, was arrested in August last year. Shiplyuk was the director of the Khristianovich Institute Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ITAM) in Novosibirsk, a city in southwestern Siberia. It came close on the heels of the arrest of several ITAM scientists—Anatoly Maslov, Dmitry Kolker and Valery Zvegintsev. All of them were experts in the field of hypersonics—an emerging field of very high speed weapon systems where Russia is believed to be a leader. Shiplyuk, Maslov, and Zvegintsev spoke regularly at academic conferences abroad and published articles, besides collaborating on international scientific projects.
Peskov told reporters on Wednesday: “No, I would not draw conclusions about any trends in this case… We can hardly talk about any trends here.”
The first court proceedings in the case will begin in St Petersburg’s city court on June 1. The case—marked ‘Top Secret’—is closed to the media and the public.
The Kremlin’s position has been buttressed by protests of several groups of Russian scientists who backed the arrested scientists saying no classified - only open-source material - was shared.
The secret world of spies and espionage is a strange one where there are no boundaries limited by parameters of friendship or alliances. Not just foes but even friendly powers spy on friends and allies. Just to cite a recent instance. On Wednesday, a news media report that has appeared worldwide indicated that even the US snoops on Ukraine. The reports cited US intelligence intercepts of electronic chatter by Ukraine’s military and intelligence bureaucracy which speculated that Ukrainian special operations forces were behind the May 3 drone attacks on The Kremlin possibly targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.