Are Kremlin’s spies targeting Russian scientists with foreign links?

Igor SutyaginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in November, we reported on the case of Valentin Danilov, a Russian physicist who spent nearly a decade in prison, allegedly for spying on his country on behalf of China. What is interesting about Danilov is that, even after his release from prison, following a pardon issued by the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he fervently maintains his innocence. He is not alone; many Russian scientists and human rights campaigners have argued for years that Danilov should never have been convicted. In some cases, activists accuse the Kremlin of persecuting Danilov for political reasons, namely to reinforce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “attempts to intimidate academics with ties to other countries”. A well-written analysis by Time magazine’s Simon Shuster argues that Danilov’s story is not unique in Russia. There have been at least a handful of similar cases in the last decade, all involving Russian scientists with links to foreign countries or organizations. Shuster mentions the example of nuclear expert Igor Sutyagin, former division head in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, who served 11 years of a 15-year sentence for allegedly passing state secrets to a CIA front company. Sutyagin, who now lives in London, United Kingdom, was one of four jailed Russians expelled to the West in exchange for the repatriation of ten Russian illegals captured by the FBI in the summer of 2010. But he maintains he was never a spy, and claims that all of the information he gave to the two Americans who employed him, in return for money, came from open sources. Undoubtedly, observers are free to draw different conclusions about either Danilov or Sutyagin. But the question that Shuster poses is, at a time when virtually no field of scientific research can develop without international collaboration, is Moscow being overly suspicious of its academics, and is this hampering Russian science as a whole? Read more of this post

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Russian court upholds 15-year prison sentence for alleged CIA spy

Igor SutyaginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russia’s highest court has upheld a lengthy prison sentence given to a Russian arms control and nuclear weapons expert, who Moscow alleges was a spy for the United States. The Russian government accuses Igor Sutyagin of collaborating with Alternative Futures, a British-registered consulting company alleged by Moscow to be a front for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Before his 1999 arrest, Sutyagin was Division Chairman on the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute. His indictment, prepared by the Russian Federal Security Service, said that he shared with the CIA “classified technical information” about nuclear submarine technology. Sutyagin maintained his innocence throughout his trial, and Human Rights Watch as well as Amnesty International classified him as a political prisoner. The two groups brought the accused spy’s case before the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Russian government prosecutors had violated Sutyagin’s right to a fair trial. Moreover, the Court ruled that Sutyagin’s pre-trial detention, which lasted five years, was illegal. Eventually, Moscow complied with the Court’s ruling and a retrial was ordered, to the delight of Sutyagin’s family. In the retrial, which ended last week, Russia’s Supreme Court agreed with the European Court of Human Rights that Sutyagin’s pre-trial detention had been unlawful; but the court upheld Sutyagin’s 15-yeard sentenced as “entirely legitimate”. Sutyagin was tried in absentia, however, because in the summer of 2010 he was released and fled to the West, as part of the largest postwar spy-exchange between Russia and United States. Sutyagin was one of four men behind bars in Russia, who were swapped for 10 Russian non-official-cover intelligence operatives that had been arrested in a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #415

  • GCHQ tech arm adopts new personnel evaluation tests. The Communications Electronics Security Group is the information assurance arm of the General Communications Headquarters –Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency. CESG has now adopted a new testing method of verifying the competency of its IT security professionals, because apparently there are “not enough security professionals in the public and private sectors to go around”.
  • Swapped Russian insists he was no CIA spy. Of the four jailed Russians the US received from Moscow in exchange for the 11 Russian illegals in July, only one is talking. But Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear proliferation expert, who was convicted of links with a CIA front-company, insists he was no CIA spy. However, if that is so, why was he on Washington’s swap list in the first place?
  • Militants target Yemen spy officials. Two officers in Yemen’s Political Security Organization, Colonel Ali Abdul Kareem al-Ban, and Juman Safian, have been shot dead in recent days. Al-Qaeda militants, who assumed responsibility for the attacks, warned they will be stepping up operations inside neighboring Saudi Arabia.

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Russian alleged CIA spy gives interview

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Of the four Russians alleged spies that the US and the UK received from Moscow in exchange for the 11 Russian illegals in July, only one is talking to the media. The Russian government convicted Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear proliferation expert, of having links with Alternative Futures, a British consulting company alleged by Moscow to be a CIA front. This past weekend, Sutyagin, who now lives in an undisclosed London location, gave a detailed interview to Natalya Golitsyna, a London-based correspondent for US government-owned Radio Liberty’s. As in his previous statements to the press, the Russian scientist rejected he was ever a spy, claiming that “[t]he first thing in my mind [...] was doing and thinking for my country”. He also rejected accusations that he provided Alternative Futures with classified information on Russian nuclear weapons policy: “there was no transfer of information”, said Sutyagin, noting that the information he shared with the British-registered company “was just an illustration of the processes that are going on in Russia tasks”. Read more of this post

Russian ‘spy’ breaks silence, wants to leave UK for Russia

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
One of the four Russian alleged spies that were handed over to the West in return for 11 Russian intelligence officers arrested in the US last month, has issued a public statement for the first time since his July 9 release from prison. At the time of his release, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear expert who headed the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, had served 11 years of a 15-year sentence, for allegedly passing state secrets to Alternative Futures, a British company alleged to be a CIA front by the Russian government. Once Washington included his name on the top-secret exchange list, Sutyagin was transferred from his prison cell in Kholmogory prison, near Arkhangelsk in northern Russia, to the Lefortovo high-security jail in Moscow. It was there that, following a meeting with this family, he was told that he would receive a Presidential pardon in exchange for his unconditional admission of guilt. Minutes after he agreed to the deal, the Russian scientist was flown to London, still in his prison uniform. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #394 (Russia-US spy swap edition III)

  • Russian spy’s call to father triggered arrests. A telephone call from Russian spy Anna Chapman to her father in Moscow led US counterintelligence services to hasten the arrests of her and nine Russian agents in the United States, claims The Washington Post.
  • Non-Russian spy Pelaez to return to Peru in month. Vicky Pelaez, a journalist with dual US-Peruvian citizenship, who was deported from the United States to Russia on a spy swap, will return to Peru no sooner than in a month, Pelaez’s lawyer, Carlos Moreno, said on Monday.
  • Alleged CIA spy Sutyagin may return to Russia. Igor Sutyagin, a Russian arms expert convicted of espionage in 2004, may return home after he was deported to England in a spy swap with the US, according to his former colleague Pavel Podvig. “He has Russian citizenship, his wife and daughters are in Russia and he has been pardoned by the President”, said Podvig.

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Russia-US spy swap plan was almost shelved, say Russian media

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The unprecedented spy exchange between Russia and the United States nearly failed, after American and Russian planners came across several unforeseen problems during the run-up to the swap. Moscow-based daily newspaper Moskovsky Komzomolez cited a confidential source in Russian intelligence, who said that Washington almost cancelled the exchange deal in the early hours of July 9. This was after Russian media published the names of the four jailed Russian citizens who were to be given up by Moscow, in exchange for the ten Russian deep-cover spies arrested by the FBI in several US cities in June. The agreement almost came to a standstill again a few hours later, after Russian nuclear weapons expert Igor Sutyagin refused to officially admit guilt, a step that was required for the planned exchange to take place. The Russian scientist, who chaired a division in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, was serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly passing state secrets to a foreign company that was a front for the CIA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #390 (Russia-US spy swap edition I)

  • In spy swap, agents were pawns in a practiced game. The US arrests were not made to facilitate a swap, said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Rather, they were precipitated, at least partly, by the plans of several of the Russians to leave this country this summer.
  • Russian spies get tepid reception in Moscow. The 10 spies who pleaded guilty to acting as foreign agents in the United States, including one Peruvian, were given a tepid, uneasy reception in Russia on Friday. State-controlled national television channels reported their return briefly, with no patriotic fervor. No national TV channels carried live coverage of the plane’s landing, even though it was available from international news agencies.
  • Russian, US spies start new lives but mystery swirls. The 14 spies swapped by Moscow and Washington were starting new lives in Russia and the West last weekend, but mystery shrouded their precise whereabouts. In one case, Igor Sutyagin, a Russian nuclear arms expert who allegedly spied for the US, found himself at a hotel somewhere in Britain, without a visa and still wearing his Russian prison clothes.

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Russia, US, in largest spy swap since World War II

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Russian and American governments have agreed to conduct one of history’s largest spy exchanges, as ten Russian agents captured in the US last month have been swapped for four Russian citizens imprisoned by Moscow for spying for the US and Britain. The ten Russians arrested by the FBI in June were non-official-cover (NOC) operatives, otherwise known as ‘illegals’, a term used to identify deep-cover intelligence operatives not associated with a country’s diplomatic representation. According to reports, they were all instructed by the SVR, Russia’s equivalent of MI6, which is responsible for all foreign intelligence operations abroad, to plead guilty to “acting as unregistered foreign agents” a charge not equivalent to espionage in either seriousness or repercussions. They were then legally forbidden from ever returning to the United States and summarily expelled. They were taken from the courtroom directly to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Vienna, Austria. In return, Russian government sources have confirmed that four Russian citizens, arrested in recent years for spying on behalf of the US or Britain, will be released from prison and delivered to US authorities. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #353

  • Name of British Mossad agent handed to Interpol. Dubai police have identified another suspect in the January murder of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. He is reportedly a 62-year-old British citizen, who is believed to be currently hiding in western Africa.
  • Russia jails man for spying for the US. Gennady Sipachyov, a Russian whose age and profession have been kept secret by Moscow, has been sentenced to a four-year sentence for allegedly emailing secret military maps identifying classified Russian military infrastructure to the US Pentagon in 2008. Earlier this month, a Russian court rejected an appeal by another alleged US spy, Igor Sutyagin.
  • Bulgarian government wants to copy CIA. Bulgaria’s Defense Minister, Anyu Angelov, has proposed the merging of intelligence services to create a mega-structure of the CIA type. Meanwhile, a panel investigating Bulgaria’s communist-era police files has exposed two of the country’s former counterintelligence heads as former communist state security agents.

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News you may have missed #341

  • Russian court rejects ‘spy’ scientist’s appeal. A Russian court has rejected an appeal for the release of academic Igor Sutyagin, former division head in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, who is serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly passing state secrets to foreign officials.
  • Ex-CIA agent’s arrest in VA was eventful, say sources. We reported earlier this week that Andrew M. Warren, the CIA’s Algiers station chief, who is accused of having drugged and raped two Algerian women at his official residence, was arrested at a Norfolk, Virginia motel, after he failed to show up for a court hearing. It now appears that Warren “had a gun in his waistband [...] and officers used a taser to subdue him”.
  • Documents show CIA thought Gary Powers had defected. Declassified documents show the CIA did not believe that Gary Powers, who piloted the U2 spy plane shot down over Russia in 1960, causing the U2 incident, had been shot down. Instead, the agency spread the rumor that Powers “baled out and spent his first night as a defector in a Sverdlovsk nightclub”!

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