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Crackdown on Russian Scientists Who Helped Design Hypersonic Missile Program

In a series of politically charged arrests, at least 12 Russian scientists associated with President Vladimir Putin’s heralded hypersonic missile program have been detained, with three reported deaths following their arrests, highlighting the intense secrecy and security surrounding this advanced military technology.

Putin’s Directive

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Yevgeny Smirnov, a lawyer familiar with the cases, revealed that each accusation was reportedly communicated directly to Putin, suggesting a direct presidential interest in safeguarding the missile program’s secrets and asserting its global dominance.

Boasting Technological Superiority

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In 2018, Putin publicly praised the hypersonic missile program, declaring these “super weapons” as unparalleled in speed and maneuverability, presenting a significant challenge to existing missile defense systems.

The Kinzhal Missile

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The Kh-24 Kinzhal, a key asset in Russia’s hypersonic arsenal, has been actively used in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, demonstrating its operational capability and strategic importance to Moscow’s military objectives.

The Risks of Association

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Reports indicate that scientists even remotely connected to the hypersonic program faced accusations of espionage, highlighting the Kremlin’s aggressive stance against potential leaks of this sensitive technology to foreign entities.

Targeted Institutions

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The crackdown has affected researchers from prestigious institutions such as the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, and the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, signifying a broad sweep across Russia’s scientific community.

Accusations of International Espionage

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Several scientists, including ITPM director Alexander Shiplyuk, were arrested under charges of sharing secrets with foreign nations, notably China, despite assertions that the information was publicly accessible.

Colleagues Rally in Defense

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The arrests have prompted outcry and concern from the scientific community, with colleagues defending the accused and warning of the detrimental impact on Russian scientific progress.

Treason and Trials

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Some of the detained scientists faced severe sentences, with Anatoly Gubanov and Valery Golubkin receiving 12-year sentences, reflecting the harsh penalties for alleged treason within Russia’s judicial system.

Tragic Outcomes

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The health and wellbeing of the detained scientists have suffered, with Vladimir Kudryavtsev passing away due to cancer before his trial, and other researchers experiencing similar fates, underscoring the human cost of this crackdown.

An Ongoing Pattern

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The case of Dmitry Kolker from the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who also died, adds to the list of scientists who have suffered under the weight of espionage accusations, painting a grim picture of the consequences of involvement in Russia’s hypersonic missile program.

A Climate of Fear

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The detention and subsequent deaths of several Russian scientists involved in the hypersonic missile program reveal a climate of fear and suspicion that has enveloped Russia’s quest for military-technological supremacy, with dire consequences for the individuals caught in its wake.

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