The Kremlin revealed on Wednesday that they are conducting a treason probe into three Russian academics who have worked on hypersonic missile technology, sending shockwaves across Russia’s scientific community.
An open letter from scientists in support of the men has been circulated, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged its existence.
On Monday, the colleagues released the letter protesting the indictments and defending the innocence of Alexander Shiplyuk, Anatoly Maslov, and Valery Zvegintsev.
The scientists’ colleagues wrote that they had double-checked the documents they had presented at international forums to ensure they didn’t include any classified information.
The letter said they know them as patriots and decent people who are incapable of what the authorities suspect of them.
The atmosphere of paranoia, fear, and severe punishments are putting young Russian scientists in Russia on edge. The brightest minds in academia are turning away from the field. There is a reluctance to participate in potentially dangerous research, and many areas essential to building the foundation for future aircraft technology are closing.
The arrested scientists were regulars at academic conferences, evidenced by their names appearing on mailing lists for such events dating back years.
The results of an experiment conducted by Maslov and Shiplyuk on the development of hypersonic missiles were presented at a symposium held in Tours, France, in 2012. All three contributed to a 2016 book chapter about Hypersonic Missile Technology.
To get through opposing air defenses, Russia’s hypersonic missiles can reach speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,250 kph), as President Vladimir Putin boasts. On Tuesday, Ukraine said it had destroyed six of the weapons overnight, a claim Russia challenged.
The letter also mentioned Dmitry Kolker, a scientist from Siberia who, despite having terminal cancer (pancreatic), was arrested in 2022 with treason charges and air-lifted to Moscow. Two days later, laser expert Kolker was dead.