Russian scientist arrested over claims he spied on country’s missiles

Russian scientist is arrested over claims he’s been spying on the country’s hypersonic missiles programme for the West

  • Roscosmos space organisation confirmed that Viktor Kudryavtsev is in custody
  • The 74-year-old space scientist is being held in relation to allegations about leaking state secrets to the West
  • But he has denied any wrongdoing, his son has told Russian media 
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A Russian space scientist has denied committing treason after he was arrested on suspicion of spying on the country’s hypersonic missiles programme for the West.

Viktor Kudryavtsev, 74, is in custody in Lefortovo prison, Moscow, after a probe into allegations that staff at a top space research centre have been passing information on the country’s weapons programme.

The Roscosmos space organisation confirmed to Russian news agencies that Kudryavtsev, based at the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) near Moscow, has been detained.

Nuclear super weapons that Vladimir Putin says can strike anywhere on the planet are being tested by Russia. Daunting footage (pictured) has emerged of tests of the missiles, which the military says could wipe out an area ‘the size of Texas or France’

 A commission has been set up by Roscosmos to investigate TsNIIMash, Roscosmos Spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko told TASS on Monday.

‘An instruction has been issued to form a commission to scrutinise the TsNIImash’s activity. 

‘An inspection will be carried out. After that, the corresponding conclusions will be made. The commission will start its work shortly this week,’ the spokesman said.

The commission was launched after some employees at Roscosmos’s central research institute (TsNIIMash) were accused of leaking state secrets to Western intelligence services. 

A Russian law enforcement officer stands near an entrance to the Lefortovo prison in Moscow (stock photo)

The research institution, part of the Federal Space Agency, has been participating in the development of launch vehicles (LV), manned spacecraft (SC), orbital stations and unmanned SC for over 60 years.

Security agents raided the TsNIIMash facility in Korolyov, near Moscow, last Friday, in relation to the alleged leak of hypersonic missile secrets to Western spies, reports the BBC.

A spokesman for Roscosmos, Vladimir Ustimenko, said that Kudryavtsev had been arrested, but gave no further details. 

The award-winning scientist insisted he was not guilty of treason, his son said in reported comments.

The intercontinental ballistic weapons are capable of striking targets via both the North and South poles and Putin has said they will be combat ready in 2020. This image shows the launching pad used in the latest test

This clip highlighted a test launch of the Kremlin’s newest Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, which has a reach across the entire planet. This image shows the launch taking place

Roscosmos denied reports that a second employee of the research institute had been arrested.

Russia’s FSB security services last week raided the institute on the basis that Western security services had obtained information on secret hypersonic developments by Russian industry.

Sources told the Kommersant newspaper the probe was over ‘high treason’ with around 10 people suspected of ‘cooperation with Western secret services’.

A drop test of the RS-28 Sarmat liquid-fueled superheavy intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau to replace the old R-36M2 missile system: Russia July 19, 2018

The Russian space agency confirmed an investigation was taking place, saying it was looking at events in 2013. 

In a company announcement yesterday, Roskosmos said that ‘an unscheduled audit of security state secrets at [the research institute] has established that the investigative bodies are verifying the events of 2013.’

‘Materials’ – which were not specified – had been ‘seized during the searches in the building of Roskosmos [and the institute]. The investigation continues.’

The probe comes after President Vladimir Putin in March boasted in a state-of-the-nation address of new ‘invincible’ weapons under development, including hypersonic missiles. 


Aircraft and missiles are said to be hypersonic once they exceed speeds of Mach 5 and above, or five times the speed of sound.

This occurs at 1,715 metres per second (3,836mph / 6,174kmh).

The latest class of hypersonic missiles would be smaller, guided and designed to carry conventional explosives for time-sensitive, rapid response in theatre operations. 

There are two kinds of approaches to solving the hypersonic challenge in missiles: ‘scramjet’ and ‘boost glide.’ 

The air-breathing scramjet relies on high speed for its power.

As it accelerates, more air and fuel is pushed into the engine, allowing it to accelerate even more – to hypersonic speeds.

The boost glide model rides a reentry vehicle to extremely high altitudes, where it skips across the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Traditional ballistic missiles already travel at hypersonic speeds.

Built to carry nuclear and conventional warheads, these weapons are capable of reaching outer space in the course of their flights, but they can’t manoeuvre.


The Russian Ministry of Defence has been keen to promote a range of new super weapons currently believed to be in development.

President Putin unveiled a catalogue of doomsday weaponry as part of his annual ‘State of the Nation’ speech in March 2018.

However, questions remain about the true nature of their capabilities, how far into development the weapons truly are, and when they will be combat-ready.

RS-28 Sarmat ICBM

The RS-28 Sarmat is intended to replace the Soviet-designed SS-18 Voyevoda, the world’s heaviest ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile).

It is known as ‘Satan’ in the West and carries 10 nuclear warheads.

Sarmat can unleash ten large thermonuclear warheads, 16 smaller ones, or a combination of both, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Each warhead is purportedly capable of taking aim at a different target.

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (IBM) before sailing on top of the atmosphere toward its target. Russia tested its latest IBM, the Sarmat missile, for the first time last year (pictured)

The (ICBM) weapons can strike targets via both the North and South poles.

TV broadcaster Zvezda, which is run by the Russian Ministry of Defence, has previously claimed the missile will be capable of wiping out areas the size of Texas or France. 

It is also capable of carrying up to 24 of Russia’s new Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles, designed to sit atop of an ICBM.

Putin says both weapons will be combat-ready in 2020. 

Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle 

Russia is also believed to be developing a hypersonic weapon that can breach even the world’s most advanced missile defence systems.

The Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle purportedly travels at 20 times the speed of sound and can hit targets anywhere in the world within half an hour.

The vehicle launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, before gliding on top of the atmosphere toward its target.

It is loaded with advanced countermeasure systems that allow it to skirt around the latest-generation of missile defence systems, Russia claims.

The vehicles are equipped with onboard countermeasure systems capable of dodging even the most advanced missile defence systems. This artist’s impression shows how the glider could manoeuvre at high speed to bypass missile defences

The gliders are also highly unpredictable thanks to their manoeuvrability, making them almost impossible to track using conventional systems.

Each weapon could be loaded with a nuclear warhead, however military experts say the sheer speed of the vehicles means they could do damage even without an explosive payload attached.

Putin described his hypersonic arsenal as ‘invincible’ during a state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.

He claimed Avangard strikes ‘like a meteorite, like a fireball’ and was capable of reaching targets at 20 times the speed of sound.

At this speed the weapon could circle the Earth in just over half an hour. 

Speaking to MailOnline, Neil Gibson, senior weapons analyst for Jane’s by IHS Markit, said: ‘I think the ability of hypersonic systems to defeat air-defence system is highly exaggerated.

‘They have advantages and disadvantages as per any other weapon system. 

‘The fact is, the vast majority of ballistic missiles are already hypersonic anyway, it’s the controlled flight when still hypersonic that we are talking about here.

‘If nuclear armed, they just come under ‘mutually assured destruction’ style posturing. Using them is always possible of course.

‘Conventionally-armed versions are more likely to be used, though any confusion with what they carry – nuclear or conventional warhead – could start an exchange of nuclear weapons if it is mistaken for a nuclear attack.’

Kinzhal Hypersonic Air Launched Missile

Another new missile, the hypersonic Kinzhal, travels at ten times the speed of sound, Putin says.

It is currently undergoing tests in southern Russia.

The hypersonic Kinzhal missile is launched from a high-altitude MiG-31 fighter jet and can be fitted with either nuclear, or conventional weapons.

This still shows the hypersonic Kinzhal, which travels at ten times the speed of sound and is currently undergoing tests in southern Russia

It has an effective range of 1,250 miles (2,000 km), although Putin claims its total range is actually ‘unlimited’.

Russia has already conducted some 350 training missions with the military unit tasked with testing the Kinzhal.

Putin claims the new missile would be capable of striking ‘anywhere in the world’, and that its high speed and manoeuvrability allowed it to pierce any missile defence.

However, despite Putin’s major promises, the missile has still not been able to stay airborne for more than a few minutes, according to US intelligence sources.

The new missile has purportedly been tested four times between November and February and crashed every time.

Poseidon Drone Submarine 

The Poseidon drone submarine is essentially a giant, nuclear-capable torpedo capable of carrying a two megaton nuclear warhead capable of obliterating military ports.

The Kremlin’s Poseidon torpedo sub is designed to destroy ‘enemy navy bases’ and will be able to travel up to 70 knots (80 miles per hour), it claims.

Russian state news agency TASS says it has not been able to confirm details of the weapon.

The Poseidon drone submarine – with a miniature nuclear propulsion system – is shown undergoing a static test

However, it quoted a military source as saying: ‘It will be possible to mount various nuclear charges on the ‘torpedo’ of the Poseidon multipurpose seaborne system, with the thermonuclear single warhead similar to the Avangard charge to have the maximum capacity of up to two megatonnes in TNT equivalent.’

With its nuke, the weapon ‘is primarily designed to destroy reinforced naval bases of a potential enemy,’ the report added.

Peresvet Combat Laser System 

Named after a medieval warrior monk, very little is known about this system.

Many believe Peresvet is a jamming system carried on the back of military lorries, which can be used to ‘blind’ optical electronic equipment inside enemy vehicles using a laser beam.

According to ex-Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov the ‘combat laser systems’ that Putin addressed in his State of the Nation speech back in March had already been delivered to the nation’s armed forces last year.

Many believe Peresvet is a jamming system carried on the back of military lorries (pictured), which can be used to ‘blind’ optical electronic equipment inside enemy vehicles using a laser beam  

Once found only in works of fiction, Mr Borisov said such devices were now a very real and necessary tool of modern warfare. 

‘We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,’ Mr Borisov said in comments translated by the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

But the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed today’s reality.’

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