Russian professors convicted of passing nuclear secrets to China
Two St. Petersburg professors were convicted of handing over nuclear missile secrets to China on Wednesday. This is only one of many espionage cases that have been brought to light underlying tensions between Moscow and Beijing. It’s a real-life James Bond scenario, minus the Hollywood glamorization of shootouts and missions.
The St. Petersburg City Court found Yevgeny Afanasyev and Svyatoslav Bobyshev guilty of treason for divulging nuclear missile information. According to the Interfax news agency, the two professors have been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
During their visit to China in 2009, they were offered money by Chinese intelligence officials for information regarding Russia’s newest submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Bulava. The two professors have been in custody since their arrest by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2010, when they unsuccessfully pleaded not guilty.
However, the Committee for the Defense of Scientists, which is set up to combat what it calls an FSB witch hunt against academics, called the convicted professors “victims of spy mania.”
The Bulava, after a series of troubled tests from 2004, is meant to be one of the centerpieces of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Interfax has reported that China also sought information regarding Topol-M and Iskander missiles.
After the rivalry between the two nations during the Cold War era in the late 20th century, Moscow and Beijing have developed a strategic partnership. However, tensions arose again when China began to try to produce unlicensed copies of Russian weapons.
The two powers in the Asia-Pacific area have been trying to get their hands on regional hegemony, which naturally led to fierce competition that has lasted for decades. For example, the FSB arrested Chinese secret agents last year for information on Russia’s new anti-aircraft missiles. The agents were disguised as official delegates from China in order to search for a number of key components.
Russia has been reducing arms exports to China in response to accusing Beijing for producing clones of their state-of-the-art technology.