George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who has spent more than US$100 million supporting Russia’s impoverished scientists, has denounced a recent order from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ leadership that its members report their contacts with foreigners to the authorities. The academy’s governing presidium recently ordered its so-called special departments and the directors of research institutes to “carry out constant control over trips abroad by Academy of Sciences researchers who have access to state secrets,” to increase control over international scientific conferences in Russia and to “tighten control over researchers’ filing of reports about their trips abroad.” The order was made public by Sergei Kovalev, the State Duma deputy and veteran human rights campaigner who himself is a scientist.
After the order was issued, the Institute for General Genetics in Moscow reportedly instructed its scientists to report to their supervisors all contacts with foreign scientists (Moscow Times, June 1). Soros, who was visiting Russia, said during a press conference yesterday that the directive represented “a return to the Soviet system” (Financial Times, June 6). In a newspaper interview published today, he called the directive “very dangerous” and “very harmful to Russia’s interests,” and proof that the Academy of Sciences was “an organization of the Soviet type” that needed “deep reforming” (Vedomosti, June 6).
The directive seems to be part of a wider and growing pattern. Yesterday, for example, journalists in the Siberian region of Omsk who went to the local authorities to receive accreditation for an international arms exhibition were reminded by an officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Trikachev, about the existence of state secrets and the need for vigilance. Trikachev asked the journalists not to get drunk or otherwise lose control, warning that foreigners like to videotape such incidents. He also urged the journalists to consult with him prior to interviewing foreigners and to brief the FSB on the substance of the interviews afterward. Trikachev emphasized, however, that a full report was unnecessary, saying: “We will talk and I will ask questions.” The local FSB evidently fears that a large contingent of foreign intelligence agents using diplomatic cover will be at the arms exhibition to check out Russian military hardware (Radio Liberty, June 5).
In April, the FSB charged Valentin Danilov, head of the Thermo-Physics Center of Krasnoyarsk State Technical University, with trying to sell space research secrets to China, a charge that Danilov’s colleagues deny (see the Monitor, April 23). Meanwhile prosecutors in the central Russian region of Kaluga yesterday began cross-examining Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Academy of Sciences’ U.S.A. and Canada Institute, who was arrested by the FSB in October 1999. Sutyagin is accused of passing military secrets to the United States and Britain, including those involving the readiness of Russian nuclear weapons and Russia’s missile attack early-warning system. The FSB claims that Sutyagin, an expert in the area of U.S. military-technical and military-economic policy, worked closely with two employees of a British consulting firm, Alternative Futures, whom the FSB allege were U.S. intelligence agents. Sutyagin has denied the charges (NTV.ru, June 5; see the Monitor, February 28).
PRIMORSKY KRAI HIT AGAIN BY POWER OUTAGES.