Russia Arrests Scientist on Charges of Aiding Chinese Security Services

Russian police officers patrol on March 30, 2020 on the deserted Red square in front of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow as the city and its surrounding regions imposed lockdowns today, that were being followed by other Russian regions in a bid to slow the spread of the COVID-19 infection …
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s FSB security service arrested a doctor of physics and mathematics named Dmitry Kolker at Novosibirsk State University in Siberia and took him to Moscow on Thursday, where he will face charges of high treason for collaborating with Chinese intelligence agents.

Russian state media quoted regional officials and members of Kolker’s family who said the charges against him were vague but might stem from his engagement as a lecturer at universities and international conferences in China. Some of his lectures covered laser imaging and range-finding, which have military applications.

According to the Moscow Times, the 54-year-old scientist was arrested at the hospital where he was undergoing treatment for stage four cancer. He is currently incarcerated at the notoriously unsanitary and brutal Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

“They took a sick man, who was practically dying and feeding through a tube in his vein, from a private hospital,” Dmitry Kolker’s son Maxim complained.

Maxim dismissed the notion of Kolker working with Chinese intelligence during his lecture trips.

“There was an FSB officer with him everywhere, who flew with him to China, forbidding him to speak in English and to give the lecture in English,” he said.

Russian security officials reportedly searched the apartment where Kolker lived with his family and confiscated his equipment. As of Friday, no judge had been assigned to his case, and no details of his high treason charge had been made public, other than the possible 20-year prison sentence he faces.

Reuters observed that arrests of Russian scientists for colluding with foreigners have increased over the past few years, often due to “unfounded paranoia,” according to critics:

Alexander Kuranov, the director of a hypersonic research laboratory, was detained last August on similar treason charges. Authorities did not state the foreign country concerned, but state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta noted that he”maintains close ties with American colleagues”.

In April last year, Valery Golubkin and Anatoly Gurbanov, who worked at the Zhukovsky Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, were charged with passing secrets to unnamed foreign nationals.

The accusation that Kolker was colluding with agents from Russia’s blossoming “no limits” ally China is an interesting twist. Reuters implied Kolker’s arrest might have been intended as a signal of Moscow’s displeasure with Beijing’s “lukewarm response to Russian requests for support as it seeks to evade U.S.-led sanctions.” 

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