Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused two scientists who worked on the development of hypersonic missiles of treason, saying they leaked classified information to a foreign country. The FSB said on Thursday that it had detained Anatoly Gubanov and Viktor Kudryavtsev, former employees of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash), a leading state-run aerospace research center.
The FSB said the two men had passed on “information constituting a state secret” to an unnamed NATO member state.
Hypersonic missiles are capable of flying at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound and can evade conventional missile defense systems.
Russia has claimed to have successfully tested several types of hypersonic weapons, including the Zircon cruise missile and the Kinzhal air-launched missile. President Vladimir Putin has touted these weapons as a key element of Russia’s military modernization and a response to US missile defense plans.
The FSB said Gubanov and Kudryavtsev had been involved in the research and development of hypersonic technologies at TsNIIMash, which is part of the state-run space agency Roscosmos.
The FSB said it had also searched the homes and offices of several other TsNIIMash employees who were suspected of being accomplices in the espionage case. The FSB did not specify when the arrests took place or what charges the two men faced.
This is not the first time that Russian scientists working on hypersonic weapons have been accused of treason. In 2018, another TsNIIMash employee, Sergei Meshcheryakov, was arrested by the FSB on suspicion of passing on secrets to an unnamed foreign intelligence service.
He was later released after spending more than a year in pre-trial detention. In 2019, another scientist, Alexander Lukanin, was sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly sharing classified information with China.
The treason accusations come amid heightened tensions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine, where Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops near its border and launched a series of airstrikes using hypersonic missiles. NATO has condemned Russia’s aggression and vowed to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The US and its allies have also imposed sanctions on Russia and offered military assistance to Ukraine.