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Russian scientists loaded with hypersonic missiles arrested for treason


Russian hypersonic missiles were hit this week by Patriots fired by Ukraine and “patriots” arrested at home.

Once touted as unstoppable, the program now faces a growing national fallout of treason charges against three scientists who worked on the technology, just as Kiev claims its US-supplied air defense systems were capable of shoot down many missiles.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday the scientists faced “very serious charges” after a rare public outcry over a wartime crackdown that fueled a growing sense of unease in Russian society.

In an open letter published on Monday criticizing the arrests, colleagues from the three hypersonic technology scholars warned that Russian research on the subject was facing an “imminent collapse”.

The three scientists – Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev – were employees of the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. They have all been arrested on suspicion of high treason within the past year, according to the letter posted on the institute’s website.

The letter professes the men’s innocence and praises their academic achievements, adding that all three have chosen to stay in Russia rather than prestigious, well-paying work abroad.

“We know each of them as a patriot and an honest person who is not capable of doing what investigators suspect them to do,” he said.

It is rare and risky in modern Russia to come to the defense of people accused of treason, especially after the passage of a bill last month raising the maximum penalty for the crime to life in prison.

Russian state news agency Tass reported on the arrests of Maslov and Shiplyuk last summer, and Zvegintsev earlier this week. He said Zvegintsev was arrested about three weeks ago and is under house arrest. NBC News could not verify these details.

Shiplyuk was in charge of the institute’s Hypersonic Technologies Laboratory, which has “unique hypersonic aerodynamic facilities designed to study fundamental and applied problems of hypersonic flight,” according to his biography on the website. Maslov is a renowned expert in the field of throttle aerodynamics, he said.

The institute published an open letter in support of Maslov after his arrest last June for what it called “high treason”, saying his colleagues were “shocked” by his detention. It was also to raise funds on behalf of the families of Maslov and Shiplyuk to cover their legal costs.

Tass reported earlier this week that the documents in the Maslov case are classified and have been turned over to a judge at a court in St. Petersburg. The agency said Maslov’s case had been investigated by the FSB, Russia’s secret service.

Although details of their cases have not been made public, the open letter from their colleagues indicates that the three men could have been arrested simply for doing their jobs, including giving presentations at world conferences and participating in international scientific projects. Their work has also been repeatedly checked by the institute’s expert commission to ensure that it does not contain “restricted information”, the letter says.

“In this situation, we are not only afraid for the fate of our colleagues. We just don’t understand how to keep doing our job,” he added, raising concerns about “a rapid decline in the level of research” if employees are too scared to do their jobs.

Such cases deter young Russian scientists from staying in the field, the letter says, and could bring Russian science to the brink of the abyss it last faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to a massive brain drain from the country. “Domestic science might not endure the second such blow,” the letter adds.

The letter also mentioned the controversial case of another Russian scientist, Dmitry Kolker, who was arrested last year on suspicion of treason while suffering from an advanced form of cancer. He was flown to Moscow for detention and died a few days later.

The Kremlin said it was aware of the academics’ defense letter, but spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was a matter of Russian special services, the Russian news agency reported. ‘Ria State. “This is a very serious charge,” he said, according to the agency.

But scientists aren’t the only patriots who seem to plague the Kremlin.

The letter comes as a wave of hypersonic missiles – which Russian President Vladimir Putin once boasted as nearly unstoppable – were apparently shot down by Ukraine this week.

kyiv claimed on Tuesday that it shot down six Russian Kinzhal missiles in a single night, a statement disputed by Moscow.

Air-launched ballistic missiles were considered next-generation technology by Russia and were praised by Puitn in a high-profile speech in early 2018, where he said they were “invulnerable” to missile and weapon systems. existing air defenses, which “simply cannot catch”. with them.

The apparent vulnerability of these missiles “probably comes as a surprise and an annoyance to Russia”, according to the British Ministry of Defence. said in his daily dispatch on Wednesday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of its Kinzhal missiles “hit and completely destroyed” a US-built Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system in Kiev on Tuesday, citing what it called ” reliable data”. But two US officials confirmed that the Patriot battery suffered damage but was still operational.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.