Anatoly Maslov is among a string of prominent Russian scientists to have been charged with treason in recent years.

Russian physicist Anatoly Maslov has been convicted of treason, according to the press service for courts in the city of Saint Petersburg.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 14 years in a penal colony. Maslov, 77, who protests his innocence, is among a string of eminent Russian scientists to have been charged with treason in recent years.

He and a number of the others had conducted theoretical work in areas relevant to the development of hypersonic missiles – cutting-edge weapons capable of carrying payloads at up to 10 times the speed of sound to punch through air-defence systems.

Maslov was accused of sharing top-secret data related to Russia’s hypersonic missile programme with Germany.

Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev, two other scientists from the same Siberian institute, all specialists in hypersonics, who have also been arrested since 2022 on treason charges, are awaiting trial.

President Vladimir Putin has said repeatedly that Russia is a world leader in this field of weaponry.

Lawyer Yevgeny Smirnov of Pervy Otdel (First Department), an association that specialises in defending people in cases of treason and espionage, said the charges against the three scientists were approximately the same – leaking information considered a state secret while participating in an international conference or research.

“Any conviction against Maslov is a gross violation of the law,” he told the Reuters news agency.

“I am sure that Maslov is not guilty of the acts accused of him and is a victim of the policies of the Russian authorities.”

Chilling effect

In a rare open letter published last year, colleagues of Maslov, Shiplyuk and Zvegintsev said the men were innocent and the scientific papers they had published or presented to international conferences had been vetted to ensure they did not include restricted information.

They said the cases were having a chilling effect on Russian academia and making it impossible for scientists to do their jobs.

In response, the Kremlin said at the time that the men faced “very serious accusations” and their cases were a matter for the security services.

Russian media cited Maslov’s lawyer as saying that the physicist, in a final address to the court, said he had dedicated his whole life to science and never dreamed of betraying his country.

The defence said Maslov had suffered a heart attack at the start of the year and a long jail term would be tantamount to a death sentence.

‘Exclusively political step’

Last month, Alexander Kuranov, another scientist in the same field, was jailed for seven years. Russian newspaper Kommersant said he had been given a reduced sentence in return for testifying against Maslov.

“It is obvious that the persecution of scientists is an exclusively political step by the Russian authorities, by which they seek to show that intelligence services around the world are trying to steal the secrets of Russian weapons,” said Smirnov of Pervy Otdel.

He said the detained scientists were not working directly on weapons, but were studying physical processes associated with high speeds.

“The essence of the charge is approximately the same for everyone,” Smirnov said, adding that the so-called secrets were actually “openly published and available to anyone”.

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