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Here’s why a leading Russian hypersonic missile developer was arrested for treason

The Print logo The Print 06-08-2022 Gaurvi Narang
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New Delhi: A top Russian hypersonic missile developer has been arrested on charges of treason, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency said Friday the third scientist to be arrested for treason this year.

The 55-year-old Alexander Shiplyuk, the director of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was arrested by the FSB, Russia’s principal counter-intelligence agency.  

Shiplyuk was taken to the Lefortovo pre-trial detention facility in Moscow,  Russian news agency TASS quoted Vasily Fomin, the scientific head of the institute, as saying. Two other scientists — Anatoly Maslov and Dmitry Kolker — were arrested this year for passing state secrets to China.  

Professor Shiplyuk was the chief of the Novosibirsk Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and had been heading research on hypersonic missiles — weapons that President Vladimir Putin claims will give Russia a strategic advantage.

Putin had said that the weapons, which can travel up to nine times the speed of sound, will be deployed with the navy over the next few months.  

Shiplyuk’s detention comes just over a month after Maslov’s arrest on 27 June and Kolker’s detention on 30 June. Maslov was the institute’s chief researcher while Kolker was a researcher and a doctor of physics and Mathematics at the Institute of Laser Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russia’s Defence Ministry claims the lecture Kolker gave in China in 2018 contains state secrets. He died on 2 July — two days after his arrest — of pancreatic cancer.

“Putin’s government sees traitors everywhere in a sign of rising paranoia. It’s like a witch hunt,” a Western diplomat source told the Daily Mail.

In May, Moscow announced that it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic Zircon missile with a range of around 1,000 km (625 miles). The commander of the Northern Fleet announced the system would be installed aboard a new frigate by the end of this year. 

Vladimir Putin claims that his new hypersonic Zircon anti-aircraft carrier missile is “unstoppable” and that a new nuclear missile named Satan-2, which is loaded with 14 warheads, is the most lethal weapon in the world.  

Military giants such as the US, China and Russia are all working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) weapons. Theoretically adept at flying at hypersonic speeds while also being able to modify course and altitude to evade radar detection, these agile weapons can also manoeuvre effectively to dodge missile defences, and are, according to defence experts, incredibly hard to defend against.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Latest from Russia disinformation stable: US experiments ‘turning Ukraine troops into monsters’

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