Russia reveals arrest of Chinese national on spy charges

FSB officer

FSB officer

Russian counterintelligence officials have revealed the arrest of an alleged Chinese intelligence operative, who has reportedly been imprisoned in Moscow for nearly a year and is awaiting trial on espionage charges. Russia’s FSB domestic intelligence agency said on Wednesday that it arrested Chinese national Tong Shengyong on October 28 last year. In a press statement, the FSB said that Tong’s professional cover was that of an “interpreter for official delegations”, but that in reality he was operating in Russia on an assignment from China’s Ministry of Public Security. The Ministry is the principal police and security authority of the People’s Republic of China, and is considered one of the world’s largest intelligence organizations. The FSB claims that Tong allegedly used his high-level contacts in Moscow and elsewhere to routinely solicit Russian nationals, offering to purchase from them information relating to Russian missile systems. According to the FSB, Tong was particularly interested in the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system, which developed for the Soviet Air Defense Forces as protection against American aircraft and cruise missiles. The Soviet-era system has since been replaced by the more advanced S-400, but China, which has historically been Russia’s largest weapons procurer, is already in possession of several S-300s, which it purchased from Moscow in the 1990s. Beijing is therefore desperate to access classified manuals that would allow it to repair and modify S-300s currently in its possession, without giving in to Russia’s insistence to upgrade to the post-Soviet S-400. Moreover, during the past decade, China has begun developing its own missile system technology, which some say is loosely based on Russian blueprints. Interestingly, the FSB chose to publicly reveal Tong’s arrest a few days prior to the official state-visit to Beijing by Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Tong is expected to be tried in closed session in Moscow in the next few weeks, and faces up to 20 years in prison. Chinese and Russian officials, who were approached for remarks on the case by international media, refused comment.

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