Victor Kudryavtsev has worked for the Russian space industry for the past 48 years. He was the leading scientist at the Central Research Institute of Machine Building, known as TsNIIMash – Russia’s main rocket development center, near Moscow. On July 20, 2018 the Russian Federal Security Services (“FSB,” – formerly the KGB) raided his apartment seeking evidence of spy activities or valuables that could be interpreted as payments from foreign entities. The searches all came up empty. Kudryavtsev was taken to Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. Six weeks later the prosecution has not presented any material evidence of any crime. Kudryavtsev did not work on weapons and has had no access to state secrets for over 20 years.
He has been accused of high treason for disclosing top-secret data on the new Russian hypersonic weapons to a source in the West. Kudryavtsev’s trouble traces to March of this year when Vladimir Putin announced the development of a highly maneuverable, nuclear capable Hypersonic Glide Vehicle that could be delivered atop an intercontinental ballistic missile and strike anywhere in the world within half an hour, invincible to any existing countermeasures. Back in 2013 a final report was released on a project that was jointly worked on by Kudryavtsev’s employer, a Belgium company (the Von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics) and a German company, (the Aerospace Center) in Cologne. The project proposed a new technology for tackling heat generated by the re-entry of a hypersonic vehicle in the atmosphere that threatens structural integrity of the vehicle. Although this was specifically proposed for the Aerospace industry the technology could also be useful to weapons designs.
Russians became concerned that technical data about the supersonic glide vehicle had leaked to the West. The FSB looked for a scapegoat and Kudryavtsev, with his expertise in the field and his contacts with European scientists, happened to be an obvious target.
TsNIIMash would not have conducted an open research in collaboration with the European Union without the blessings of the Russian aerospace industry. Kudryavtsev is paying a price for legally collaborating with Belgium and German scientists before relations with Russia became problematic with the invasion of the Ukraine in 2014.
On August 15, 2018, the St. Petersburg Union of Scientists sent a letter to President Putin asking him to rescind Kudryavtsev’s pre-trial detention on the grounds of his age and failing health. The Council on Human Rights in the Russian Federation filed a similar appeal on August 23, 2018.
On September 3 he was transferred to the isolation unit of the Moscow City Hospital for evaluation.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 9102134
Dear President Putin:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern over the arrest of Viktor Kudryavtsev – a scientist who is now a defendant in a case of treason.
Dr. Kudryavtsev is a 74-year-old scientist with the Central Research Institute of Machine Building who was arrested on suspicion of disclosing classified information about Russia’s hypersonic missiles program. However, to our best knowledge, Dr. Kudryavtsev has not had access to any secrets for more than 20 years. His collaborative research with the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Belgium, that ended 5 years ago and that seems to be the focus of the investigation, had been performed on behalf of his Institute with the full knowledge of his superiors.
Dr. Kudryavtsev suffers from diabetes and is recovering from a recent heart attack. His scientific colleagues in St. Petersburg, Russia believe that his continued detention may be life threatening. With this in mind, we would urge, that while awaiting trial he be allowed to be at home obtaining the necessary medical care that he requires.
As scientists, we know that international collaboration and sharing of information with international colleagues is an extremely regular and ordinary practice, and increasingly essential to the success of scientific and technical research projects.
We are concerned that our colleague, Viktor Kudryavtsev, may be facing prosecution for engaging in research collaborations that not only are relatively common but are likely to benefit Russian science and technology. Besides they had been approved at all levels inside Russia before they had begun.
We write to urge you to ensure that Dr. Kudryavtsev is treated fairly, that he is provided with adequate medical treatment, and regular access to family and independent legal representation. We further urge that whatever legal proceedings held in his case meet international standards for fair trials. If he was, in fact, engaged in ordinary international scientific collaboration, he must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We will be closely following developments in this case.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 1-202-298-5700 I Fax: 1-202-298-5735
Dr. Eugene Chudnovsky, Co-Chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, wrote an article for the Washington Examiner explaining Dr. Kudryavtsev’s case: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/russia-has-jailed-a-celebrated-rocket-scientist-in-a-witch-hunt-over-leaked-weapons-information (Washington Examiner, September 5, 2018 by Dr. Eugene Chudnovsky, Co-Chair, Committee of Concerned Scientists, Inc.)
St. Petersburg Union of Scientists statement to President Putin: https://rusreality.com/2018/08/15/victor-kudryavtsev-asked-to-return-home-alive/