A chill is creeping over Russia's academic and journalistic
communities as the implications of a key treason trial launched by
the security service sink in: Almost any piece of information
communicated to a foreigner could land you in jail.
The case holding everyone's attention concerns Igor Sutyagin, a
sociological researcher with Moscow's prestigious Institute of
Canada-USA Studies, who is charged with espionage for carrying out
seemingly routine academic cooperation with Canadian and British
colleagues. Mr. Sutyagin, who never had access to classified
information, has been held for 15 months in a special prison by the
Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
His trial has been postponed twice.
"There is a new concept being deployed by our authorities here,
which is that an analyst can 'create secrets' even by working with
non-secret materials," says Andrei Piontkovsky, a leading Russian
political analyst who says he has been interviewed by the FSB
because he once attended a conference with Sutyagin. "We are all
holding our breath to see if this holds up in court. If it does, we
may all find ourselves guilty of 'creating' secrets at any time, at
the whim of the FSB."
A wave of treason trials, orchestrated by the FSB, has deeply
alarmed journalists, academics, and environmentalists, whose
interests overlap military and national security fields. In
December, an American businessman, Edmund Pope, was sentenced to 20
years at hard labor by a Russian court for trying to purchase
documents that were declared secret only after his arrest. Mr. Pope
was pardoned by President Vladimir Putin. A prominent
environmentalist, Grigory Pasko, successfully defended himself
against charges of leaking information about the Russian Navy's
dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean, only to find himself
facing a fresh trial on the same charges late last year.
President Putin apparently approves. A former KGB agent, he told
prosecutors at a Kremlin ceremony in their honor last month, to
"preserve the valuable aspects that have always been present in the
work of the security organs of our country."
One reason Sutyagin's case resonates is because of its apparent
routine feel. He was arrested after he took part in a Canadian
government-funded survey of military-civil relations in Russia and
11 other post-Communist countries, in collaboration with professors
from Canada's Carleton and York universities. No problems have
arisen in any of the other countries involved in the study. He is
also accused of producing a digest of military-related articles
from the Russian press for a British company.
Sutyagin's lawyer, Vladimir Vasiltsov, says the FSB's complaint
against his client is that he analyzed the data he gathered from
open sources. "You can read all you want, but don't you dare
compare and analyze this information, because that can create a
state secret," he says.
Pavel Podvig, an analyst with the independent Center of Arms
Control Studies in Moscow and presently a visiting scholar at
Princeton University, is also under investigation for a book he
edited in 1998 on Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal. …