Russian jailed for espionage

A Russian space engineer received a 13-year jail sentence on Friday on charges of passing secret strategic missile data to the US Central Intelligence Agency in return for cash.

Russia’s FSB security service said test engineer Vladimir Nesterets from the country’s northern Plesetsk cosmodrome admitted receiving cash payments for information about “tests on Russia’s latest strategic missile systems.”

The security service refused to specify the types of systems involved in the case.
Analysts said the apparent security breach marks a significant blow for Russia because its military uses the northwestern site to test and launch every type of missile in production and development today.

“This is the Russian strategic missile forces’ main launch site,” independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said. “All current current mobile systems and their warheads are launched from and tested at Plesetsk.”

Nesterets’ conviction came just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told an FSB meeting that foreign governments were stepping up their spying activities in the country. Medvedev said the FSB had uncovered 199 foreign spies and agents last year. He added that some of those detained were Russian nationals working for Western states.

“The results of the FSB’s counter-intelligence work for last year clearly demonstrate that foreign secret services are stepping up their activities in Russia,” Medvedev said at the time.

Russia often discloses the arrest or conviction of foreign agents at a time of diplomatic tensions with the West.

Moscow is currently locked in a heated war of words with Washington and Europe over the Syria crisis and is also upset with Nato plans to push ahead with the deployment of a new missile defence system in Europe.

The FSB in October disclosed holding a Chinese national on espionage charges linked to another missile system. The case was announced on the eve of a key visit to Beijing by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “These cases are not publicised when relations with the West are normal. The arrests are still made but no information goes out,” Felgenhauer said.

“The fact that they disclosed this now means that we are playing diplomatic games again,” added Centre for Strategic Assessment analyst Alexander Konovalov.

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