Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg on April 9, 2019.

Russia accuses a top arctic researcher of spying for China

Investigators claim that Valery Mitko, president of the Arctic Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, presented a document containing state secrets to Chinese intelligence in early 2018 at Dalian University of China, where he was a visiting professor, his lawyer Evan Pavlov told CNN.

According to Pavlov, the document concerned dealt with aquatic acoustics, the study of sound in water commonly applied to underwater navigation, communications and monitoring of submarine activity, among other things.

Mitco, 78, denies wrongdoing. His lawyer asserts that all the information the world brought from Russia to China for his lectures was publicly available. The FSB press service did not respond to a request for comment.

Mitko was charged with treason and under house arrest in February this year, but details of his case have only emerged now, after Pavlov Comanda 29’s defense team, specializing in state security and espionage issues, captured it to attract public attention.

Observers of Russian-Chinese relations believe that allegations of espionage against an Arctic researcher could highlight the growing competition between the two countries in the region. Alexander Jabov, head of Russia’s program in the Asia-Pacific program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Moscow and Beijing had established a strategic partnership in the Arctic amid escalating tensions with the West, but Russia was keen on any military cooperation in this area. .

“China really shows that it has a military ambition through the way intelligence looks at these things,” Jabuyev said. “Submarines operate in neutral waters and we may see a new front for the development of the Chinese global navy. The submarines that could operate in the Arctic are part of that.”

Many Russian academics have been accused or convicted of passing on state secrets to foreign governments in recent years. In 2018, a Moscow court charged Viktor Kudryavtsev, a space engineer, with treason for sharing a report containing information about Russian hypersonic weapons with a Belgian institute after a joint research program, TASS news agency reported.

Kudryavtsev, who was in his late seventies, spent more than a year in a detention center but was transferred to house arrest because of his poor health. His case is still under investigation before the trial. The Tass news agency reported that two other employees of the same institute where Kudryavtsev was working had been arrested since on charges of government treason.

Another astronaut, Vladimir Labgin, 79, was released from prison last week at the start of the parole, after a 2016 conviction for passing technical details about a Russian spacecraft to China, according to TASS.

All scholars have denied wrongdoing, saying that the information they are accused of sharing has not been classified.

Lawyer Pavlov suggested that the cases are the product of paranoia within Russian special services. Court statistics show that the total number of cases related to state security increased significantly after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which generated “military sentiments” in law enforcement.

According to data released by the Russian Supreme Court, from 2009 to 2013, a total of 25 people were convicted of treason, and in 2014 alone there were 15 convictions. Between 2014 and 2019, 51 people were convicted of treason.

“There is a group of at-risk people who possess some sensitive information or collect this information. They are first and foremost scholars, but they may be journalists or civil activists,” the lawyer added. “[The special services] Watch who has international relations and foreign contacts, so a little red light flashes as soon as they travel abroad … and the mentality of our agents says if a scientist goes abroad, of course he goes there to sell secrets.

Since China declared itself a “semi-polar country”, it has dramatically intensified its efforts to increase its presence there, often with the help of Russia and bypassing other coastal states allied to the United States and NATO. On the other hand, Russia gave priority to reforming its regions within the Arctic Circle, which were largely abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In March, President Vladimir Putin unveiled an ambitious Arctic Plan 2035 in the hope of returning jobs to the region, by developing massive energy projects in which China has invested heavily, and Russia is looking to export oil and gas as the North Sea route becomes more free of snow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *