3 Arrested Russian Scientists Accused Of Handing Hypersonic Missile Secrets To China

Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk, and Valery Zvegintsev, who worked at the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, have been accused of allegedly handing hypersonic missile secrets to China.

A week ago, just as Ukraine was claiming to have shot down Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, three top Russian scientists who’ve reportedly worked on the country’s hypersonic program were arrested on suspicion of treason.

The Kremlin had said the three face “very serious accusations”. They were identified as Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev – and worked at the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Shiplyuk was actually director of the institute, thus the highly visible case has sent shockwaves through the Russian ruling establishment and academic community.

A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ALBM being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K in 2018. Kremlin Photo

The arrests were under mysterious circumstances, given the Kremlin didn’t spell out the details of the allegations against them, and immediately set off rare public outcry from other scientists angered over their detention. 

When pressed on the nature and specifics of the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov only said that security services are being extra watchful concerning potential cases of “betrayal of the motherland” at this sensitive time of the war in Ukraine. 

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Now, on Wednesday, Reuters in an exclusive has cited sources saying the scientists are accused of betraying classified hypersonic program secrets to China. Director Shiplyuk in particular “is suspected of handing over classified material at a scientific conference in China in 2017, the sources said,” according to the report.

“The 56-year-old maintains his innocence and insists the information in question wasn’t classified and was freely available online, according to the people, whom Reuters has chosen not to identify to safeguard their security.”

He and his supporters in the academic and scientific community in Russia say that the information in question which may have been shared with Chinese counterparts was not at all secret. Per Reuters

“He is convinced of the fact that the information was not secret, and of his own innocence,” one of the people said.

The nature of the allegations against the ITAM director, who was arrested last August, has not been previously reported. The Chinese connection would make Shiplyuk the latest in a string of Russian scientists who have been arrested in recent years for allegedly betraying secrets to Beijing.

Defense News reported that a satellite image reveals a supersonic drone, which appears to be a WZ-8 supersonic reconnaissance drone, at a Chinese military base.

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