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"Secrets of the World" with Vladimir Putin: Letter from Yury Ryzhov to President Putin on Imprisoned Scientists

Source: HRO.org (info), 18/06/12 

· Valentin Danilov  · Political prisoners  · Security services 

Yury Ryzhov, chair of the Public Committee for the Defence of Scientists and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sent a letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, at the end of May regarding the criminal prosecution of scientists charged with spying by the FSB without grounds. This is far from the first attempt to draw the attention of high-ranking Russian officials to the problem of spy mania in the Russian security services and the fate of specific people who are suffering as a result. 

As Ernst Cherny, secretary of the Public Committee for the Defence of Scientists, told HRO.org, the letter was sent to the Department for the Protection of the Constitutional Rights of Citizens of the Presidential Administration and the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. However, neither the Presidential Administration nor the Head of State have yet felt it necessary to respond even as a formality. 

Today, HRO.org has published the academician's letter to the President of the Russian Federation. 
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To the President of the Russian Federation 
V. V. Putin 


Dear Mr. President, 

Over the last 12 years, scientists and their associations, human rights defenders, artists and various international organisations have appealed to both you and Mr. Medvedev time and again to end the criminal prosecution of scientists who are routinely being charged with treason, the disclosure of state secrets and the export of dual-use technology by the FSB and to release those in prison. 

I am taking it upon myself to stand up and point out that those who have been convicted under Articles 275, 283 and 189 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and other Articles at the instigation of the FSB are by definition political prisoners. Moreover, the whole of Chapter X of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Crimes against State Authorities) is in essence the regulation of crimes that are political in nature. 

So the formal absence of a section on "Political Crimes" in the Criminal Code by no means says that the country has no political prisoners. The point is not whether there are or not. It's about something else. The authorities simply do not notice when the conversation turns to the fabrication (which seems completely deliberate to me) of criminal cases under the Articles mentioned above. 

Having spent almost 14 years dealing with the cases of scientists, I have never come across a single case where the charge has had a legal, factual basis. And this is not due to mistakes in the investigation. It is a deliberate political crime which is regulated by Articles 299, 303, 305 and 307 (Chapter X of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). 

Currently in prison are the physicist Valentin Vladimirovich Danilov (Krasnoyarsk), sentenced to 13 years and 6 months, and the former Tsniimash-Export employees Igor Andreevich Reshetin [as Ernst Cherny told HRO.org, Igor Reshetin has just been released on parole - Vera Vasileva] and Sergei Andreevich Vizir (Moscow Oblast), sentenced to 11 years and 6 months and 11 years respectively. 

It's clear to anyone assessing the current situation open-mindedly that the "cases" against the scientists are, at the very best, a huge mistake. Moreover, the numerous appeals to you and Mr. Medvedev have remained without consideration on the merits. 

We have appealed to the President because these cases have no criminal basis and so cannot be examined within the framework of honest, legal procedures. 

The cases are of a marked "rigged" nature, but at the same time are examined by our courts as cases that have a factual basis. Everything submitted by the prosecution is accepted, but whatever is submitted by the accused and the defence is rejected. This working principle of our "Basmanny" courts is well known. All the more so when trials are taking place in closed sessions. 

I want to point out that we are not even talking about a review or, God forbid, about rehabilitation. We are talking about simple human generosity, about kindness and mercy. 

The response is usually a refusal, the motivation behind which calls into question the professionalism of officials in the General Prosecutor's Office entrusted with replying to an appeal to the President of the country made by sufficiently well-known and undoubtedly honest people. 

Not even the Nobel laureate and world-renowned scientist Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg (now deceased) was worthy of the respect of officials in the General Prosecutor's Office. 

I don't know how saddened you will be by my statement that a country which ignores the opinions of its citizens has a future shrouded in mist. It is uncertain. 

Seven academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences involved in missile and space issues asked D. A. Medvedev for a personal pardon for I. A. Reshetin. D. A. Medvedev ordered that the issue be looked into. A regional commission looked into it, cut the prison sentence by two years and sent the materials to the Administration of the President, where they were happily laid to rest. That was in 2010. 

I find it difficult to even comprehend a situation like this, since the letter requesting the pardon was signed by academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences B. E. Chertok (now deceased), O. M. Belotserkovsky, V. P. Legostaev, Y. P. Semenov, Y. S. Solomonov, G. G. Cherny and Y. A. Ryzhov, all people who have contributed to the rocket production, space flight and aviation of our country (a copy of the letter is enclosed). 

I know that at the beginning of this year, D. A. Medvedev said that if the three scientists in prison appealed to him personally for a pardon, he did not see any obstacles to fulfilling their request. 

Appeals from Danilov, Reshetin and Vizir were passed on to R. Khabirov in the Administration of the President. 

Despite the fact that the scientists' pardon was supported by the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, the twelve-year period of hopes and expectations came to nothing. 

The elderly scientists, whose health has been ruined, remain in prison and the question of a pardon has not been resolved. 

Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, Danilov was acquitted by a jury in the first trial (2003). Then, as happens in Russia, the verdict of acquittal was overturned and a new trial was begun. At this trial in 2004, Danilov received 14 years in a maximum security prison (the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation cut the sentence by one year). 

The fact of the matter is that Danilov could not have disclosed anything by definition: he wrote nothing more than a Terms of Reference (ToR) for PROPOSED work. Any engineer will tell you that a ToR is no more than a declaration of intentions. So 13 years just for intent? Even in the final period of the USSR there was no longer anything like that. 

In 2004 I held a seminar on the issue of openness of information that Valentin Danilov might have used. According to the general assessment of experts, there have not been any secrets in this area for a long time. 

On the whole, Danilov's lawyers have on their side a number of opinions from experts of the very highest professional and moral standard, while the FSB only has the "evaluations" of sportsmen, military commanders and two professors from the Bauman Technical University in Moscow (Sychev and Panin) who have suddenly turned out to be experts both in the field of hydrodynamics, in the case of that most honest man Professor Anatoly Babkin (convicted of selling Shkval high-speed underwater torpedoes to the USA which in reality somehow turned out to be in Iran and Babkin was given 8 years which was suspended), and space plasma physics in Valentin Danilov's case. 

I cannot help but draw your attention to the latest rigged case involving the scientists Professors Evgeny Vasilyevich Afanasyev and Svyatoslav Vasilyevich Bobyshev from the State Military Mechanical University in St. Petersburg. 

Once again there are the unproven accusations, references to so-called "experts", and a refusal to examine submissions by the accused or their defence. 

To be honest, nobody is able to comprehend why these cases have arisen. Who do they benefit? If we take away the petty self-interest of security officers in terms of ranks, positions and awards then everything else is a disadvantage. 

The country is at a disadvantage. We will start to be looked at as though we are sick. 

All this is taking place against the appalling experience of the Stalinist repressions that form part of our history. 

Many are asking why the FSB is pursuing scientists so persistently. And in truth, why are they? 

It seems the main problem is the illusion that has been created of enemies within our country and a hostile environment. 

There is much to say about modernisation, about Skolkovo and nanotechnologies, without realising that scientists are sitting in prison thanks to the ambitions of FSB officers who are ignoring the opinions of our country's really outstanding scientists. As a consequence, the scientific and technological future of our country is on the brink of collapse. 

In this regard, I also want to be correctly understood by the President of my country. 

I remember the speech you made in the State Duma on 19 April 2000 which contained the clearly mistaken thesis on the criminalisation of communicating with foreigners. 

It seems that your words found an echo in the hearts of security officers suffering from the syndromes of kow-towing and spy mania. One cannot rule out the possibility that the persecution of scientists which is still going on today may be based entirely on this kind of reasoning. Moreover, I also remember your words about the need to be finished with this "manic spy mania". 

No, Vladimir Vladimirovich, it's not finished with. Unfortunately, it's not finished with. It was established back in the time of the NKVD and still exists now in the FSB system, within the framework of which anybody can be accused of anything anybody likes and get put behind bars. 

To this end, whole tribes have been created: husbands in the FSB, wives in the judiciary. Fathers in the public prosecutor's office and children – FSB investigators. Try and prove you're not a spy, especially if they have their own experts at hand. 

It is even more difficult when the ideology of the internal enemy has been introduced into the system of the security services. Here are the words of Gennady Zotov, head of the FSB's Directorate for Constitutional Security: "When the Directorate for Constitutional Security was set up by the government, the aim was to create an independent subdivision distinct from the system of FSB agencies ‘specialising’ in the fight against threats to the security of the Russian Federation in the social and political sphere. For a number of objective reasons related to the fundamental peculiarities of Russia, it has always given special emphasis to the protection of the state from "internal sedition" which means, using more modern language, the threat to security in the social and political sphere, since "internal sedition" has always been more frightening to Russia than any military invasion" (Nezavisimaya gazeta, 20 November 1998). 

Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am once again appealing to you to release from prison Danilov, Reshetin and Vizir, whose pleas for mercy are with your Administration. 

I remember that even those who took part in the attempted coup (the GKChP) were released under amnesty and V. A. Kriuchkov even became your advisor. 

In addition, I am urging you to take steps to end the cases against Afanasyev and Bobyshev who are still on trial. It is still possible to stop this tyranny. The scientists have been behind bars since March 2010. 

And finally, I would like to take the opportunity to touch on just one more issue. 

Every Thursday on the REN TV channel there is a shamefully ignorant programme claiming to be of a "scientific nature" called "Secrets of the World with Anna Chapman". It is simply a disgrace for a country that still has, even today, quite a high scientific standing in the world and dreams of modernisation. However, the people who appear on this programme (including scientists) are no less surprising than Chapman herself. Just take one look at this programme, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Especially knowing that against the background of a programme like this there are real scientists behind bars. 

Sincerely yours,
Chair of the Public Committee for the Defence of Scientists,
Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences 


Y. A. Ryzhov
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