Russian hypersonic missile scientists arrested on treason charges


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  13 comments

By:   Yuliya Talmazan

Russian hypersonic missile scientists arrested on treason charges
Russia has arrested scientists working on hypersonic technology as Ukraine claims it used Patriot air defense systems to shoot down the missiles.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Russia's hypersonic missiles have taken a dual hit this week from Patriots fired by Ukraine and "patriots" arrested at home.

Once touted as unstoppable, the program faces growing domestic fallout from treason charges against three scientists who worked on the technology, just as Kyiv claims its U.S.-supplied air defense systems have been able to shoot many of the missiles down.

The Kremlin said Wednesday that the scientists face "very serious accusations" after a rare public outcry over a wartime crackdown that has fueled a growing sense of unease across Russian society.

In an open letter criticizing the arrests published Monday, colleagues of the three academics in hypersonic technology warned that Russia's research on the subject faces "impending 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 were all detained on suspicion of high treason over the past year, according to the letter published on the institute's website.

The letter professes the men's innocence and praises their academic achievements, adding that all three chose to stay in Russia rather than accept highly paid and prestigious work abroad.

"We know each of them as a patriot and a decent person who is not capable of doing what the investigating authorities suspect them of," it said.

It is rare and risky in modern Russia to speak out in defense of people charged with treason, especially after a bill was adopted last month increasing the maximum sentence for the crime to life in jail.

The Russian state media agency Tass reported on the arrests of Maslov and Shiplyuk last summer and on Zvegintsev's this week. It said Zvegintsev was detained about three weeks ago and is under house arrest. NBC News could not verify those details.

Shiplyuk was in charge of the laboratory of hypersonic technologies at the institute, which has "unique hypersonic aerodynamic installations designed to study the fundamental and applied problems of hypersonic flight," according to his bio on the website. Maslov is a renowned expert in the field of aerogasdynamics, it said.

The institute released an open letter in support of Maslov after he was arrested in June for what it said was "high treason," saying his colleagues were "shocked" by his detention. It was also raising money on behalf of the families of Maslov and Shiplyuk to cover their legal expenses.

Tass reported this week that the materials in Maslov's case are classified and have been handed over to a judge in a St. Petersburg court. The agency said Maslov's case was investigated by the FSB, Russia's secret service.

While the details of their cases have not been made public, the open letter by their colleagues said the three men could have been arrested for simply doing their jobs, including making presentations at global conferences and taking part in international scientific projects. Their work was also repeatedly checked by the institute's expert commission to ensure it did not include "restricted information," the letter said.

"In this situation, we are not only afraid for the fate of our colleagues. We just do not understand how to continue to do our job," it added, raising concerns about "a rapid decline in the level of research" if employees are too afraid to do their work.

Such cases are dissuading young Russian scientists from staying in the field, the letter said, and they could bring Russian science to a brink it last faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was characterized by a massive brain drain from the country. "Domestic science may not endure the second such blow," the letter added.

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

The Kremlin said it was aware of the letter in defense of the academics, but spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was a matter for Russian special services, the state media agency RIA reported. "This is a very serious accusation," he said, according to the agency.

But the scientists are not the only patriots seemingly bedeviling the Kremlin.

A wave of the hypersonic missiles — which Russian President Vladimir Putin once boasted were all but unstoppable — were seemingly shot down by Ukraine this week.

Kyiv claimed Tuesday that it had shot down six Russian Kinzhal missiles in a single night, a statement Moscow disputed.

Russia considered the air-launched ballistic missiles to be next-generation technology, and Putin praised them in a highly publicized speech in early 2018, when he said they are "invulnerable" to existing missile and air defense systems, which "simply cannot catch up with them."

The apparent vulnerability of the missiles "is likely a surprise and an embarrassment for Russia," the British Defense Ministry said in its daily dispatch Wednesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said one of its Kinzhal missiles "struck and completely destroyed" a U.S.-built Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system in Kyiv on Tuesday, citing what it called "reliable data." But two U.S. officials confirmed that the Patriot battery had incurred some damage but was still operational.

yuliya-talmazan-circle-byline-template.jpg Yuliya Talmazan

Yuliya Talmazan is a London-based journalist.

Mosheh Gains contributed.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  TᵢG    3 weeks ago

Just keep unraveling your nation, Putin.  The only way things are going to get better is for Russia to hit rock bottom (and then take you out).

Professor Quiet
1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  TᵢG @1    3 weeks ago

Agree, but what happens if whoever replaces him is just as bad or worse?

Professor Quiet
1.1.1  Ozzwald  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    3 weeks ago
Agree, but what happens if whoever replaces him is just as bad or worse?

What happens if whoever replaces him is better?  You'll never know unless they try, but obviously sticking with what they have is a lose - lose proposition.  Russia is losing much needed international support except for China and NK for the most part, and even China may be hedging on that support.

Greg Jones
Professor Guide
1.1.2  Greg Jones  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    3 weeks ago

At some point, the most sane and rational memebers of the Russian hierarchy, both civilian and military, might conclude this invasion was a really bad idea...and accept the reality that Ukraine will never be defeated. The Russian people can see the futility of prolonging this war as it is slowly destroying the nation. Their protests will likely become louder and more frequent until a critical mass is reached. A coming coup by the military is not out of the question.

Professor Principal
1.1.3  TᵢG  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    2 weeks ago

Putin is in a situation of his own making.   His ego is likely what causes him to continue down this futile path.

A new person would be free to take a different course and blame Putin.

Professor Quiet
1.1.4  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  TᵢG @1.1.3    2 weeks ago

I guess Vicious Vlad now has to have crow to eat added to his borscht.

Professor Principal
2  Kavika     2 weeks ago

The ability of the Patriot System to shoot down hypersonic missiles is astounding. I read a US intelligence report that posted this question. Are these really hypersonic missiles? or are they ballistic missiles fired from planes? Were the Russians lying? 

All excellent questions and with the arrest of three of the scientists involved could it be because the hypersonic missiles are simply ballistic missiles and the scientists lied about them or that the government lied about them?

There was a report this morning that using the Patriot System, Ukraine shot down a Russian bomber.

Professor Quiet
2.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @2    2 weeks ago

Combination of all of the above I would think.

Professor Principal
2.1.1  Kavika   replied to  Ed-NavDoc @2.1    2 weeks ago

That certainly is possible, Doc.

Professor Quiet
3  cjcold    2 weeks ago

Sure wouldn't want to be a research scientist in Putin's Russia!

Talk about your dead-end jobs. No wonder so many have left for the West.

Nothing like a proxy war to expose your enemy's weaknesses.

Guess Trump hitched his one-wheel wagon to the wrong despot.

Professor Principal
4  Nerm_L    2 weeks ago

What this information reveals is that hardliners in the Russian government are obtaining more influence over the government.  It's not about the technology; it's about widening the war.  Like it or not, Russia has been restrained in its conduct of the invasion and subsequent war.  Hardliners want to remove those restraints.

The Russian government is not a far right government.  Unless the 'far right' label has become a description of central government with authority over every aspect of society.  If that is the case, then our autocratic bureaucracy is a far right government.  These hardliners gaining influence over the Russian government are not far right ideologues.  

BTW, it's no trick to shoot down any sort of missile when the air defense battery is the target.  The flight path toward the battery establishes a steady target.  That's the difference between baseball and tennis.

Professor Quiet
4.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Nerm_L @4    2 weeks ago

Are you aware that Russian and US hypersonic missiles are allegedly equipped with autonomous course correction capability? In addition, the Ukrainians may salvoed multiple Patriot missiles from a missile battery all at once to improve chances of a kill.

Professor Principal
4.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @4.1    2 weeks ago
Are you aware that Russian and US hypersonic missiles are allegedly equipped with autonomous course correction capability? In addition, the Ukrainians may salvoed multiple Patriot missiles from a missile battery all at once to improve chances of a kill.

Well, the physics is similar to baseball.  The strike zone is small target.  Imagine a pitcher having to hit a catcher's mitt that doesn't move.  The strike zone shrinks to the size of the catcher's mitt.  And the batter doesn't have to move to intercept the pitched ball since the batter is at the target.  That's why a bunt is possible.  The difficult ballistics problem in baseball is trying to catch a hit ball.  The fielder has to move into position to make the catch.  The speed of the hit ball is a much larger factor in the ability of the fielder to intercept and catch the ball.


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