78-years old former Russian navy captain, now professor on Arctic, accused of working for Chinese intelligence

Russian sailors line up onboard a military submarine Kronstadt during the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 28, 2019.
Russian investigators believe that scientist Valery Mitko gave China information on research on hydroacoustics and submarine detection methods. (Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters)
It was February 11 and professor Valery Mitko was at sleep when the doorbell began to rang at seven o’clock in the morning at the two-rooms apartment where Mitko was living with his wife in St. Petersburg. When opening, Mitko understood this wasn’t at all any friendly visitors. Six civilian dressed people were there to bring him in for interrogation.

As Mitko was taken away to Bolshoi Dom, the FSB headquarters on Liteyny Prospect, his wife Tatyana was presented a search warrant for the apartment. The search lasted until 9 pm that day and the FSB officers literally took all papers in the apartment.

On Monday this week, his lawyer Ivan Pavlov went public and said professor Mitko is charged with high treason in the form of espionage.

Mitko’s alleged crime is that he during a trip to China handed over classified materials to the Chinese intelligence.

Valery Mitko denies all allegations, Ivan Pavlov says in a background article posted by his his association Team 29’s portal.

An expert in hydroacoustics and submarine detection methods

State run news agency TASS, quoting officials familiar with the case, informs that the investigation believes that Mitko gave China information on research on hydroacoustics and submarine detection methods.

The prosecution claims Mitko brought a document containing characteristics of Russian submarine designs, saying he is one of Russia’s leading experts in hydroacoustics.

According to lawyer Ivan Pavlov, the professor has traveled several times to China, visiting the Dalian University in Liaoning province.

After graduation in 1963, Mitko served with the Pacific Fleet, where he first went on a voyage along the Northern Sea Route in Russia’s Arctic waters. In 1969, as Captain of 1st rank, he left the navy but continued to study the Arctic and became Doctor of Technical Science. In 2003, he initiated the Academy of Arctic Sciences.

In 2019, professor Mitko published a 252 pages volume about geopolitical factors determining the Arctic mission of Russia.

Close to “zero chance” of being acquitted, says lawyer

In Russian Arctic social science, Valery Mitko is a well-known name with more than 400 scientific works in Russia and abroad. He has also published two textbooks and is awarded 24 medals.

Valery Mitko is now under house arrest awaiting trial. Pavlov has appealed the house arrest ruling.

Quoting his comment to the charges, the Team29 article writes: “I consider myself a patriot of my country and has throughout life been devoted to serve the interests of the USSR and Russia. I didn’t commit any crimes, especially not treason. I have nothing more to add.”

Lawyer Ivan Pavlov is not very optimistic about the chances of getting the professor acquitted as charged.

“The percentage of acquittals in state security cases in Russia is negligible, it is reduced to zero,” Pavlov said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Northern Canadian territory puts trade mission to China on hold amid diplomatic tensions, CBC News

Finland: Why are we so afraid of China, even in the North?, Yle News

Greenland: Controversy over Greenland airports shows China still unwelcome in the Arctic, Cryopolitics Blog

Iceland: Iceland & UK sign agreement to boost security, defence cooperation, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: China’s ambassador to Norway brushes off allegations his country is a threat in Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia releases Norwegian ex-border inspector in 3-way spy swap involving Lithuania, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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