Two Russians detained on suspicion of spying for China

The two men are being investigated for "high treason and espionage.

Saint Petersburg: Two Russian scientists are being held in a high-security Moscow prison while being investigated on suspicion of spying for China, a lawyer for one of the scientists said on Wednesday.

The two men, Svyatoslav Bobyshev and Yevgeny Afanasyev, who are both university academics, are being held in Lefortovo jail while being investigated for "high treason and espionage", Bobyshev`s lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said.

Lefortovo was used by the KGB in Soviet times and by its successor FSB, or the Federal Security Service, since 1995.

On Wednesday, Bobyshev`s defence lost an appeal against his pre-trial detention, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the Moscow City Court.

The two men teach at Voenmekh University in Saint Petersburg, an engineering school with a military slant, working in a department that specialised in technical equipment for rockets and space vehicles.

They also lectured at China`s Harbin Technical University as part of an exchange programme.

Bobyshev`s daughter said on Wednesday that the claims were absurd.

"My father read lectures whose entire content was checked a thousand times. All of his colleagues are shocked," Bobyshev`s daughter Yekaterina said.

"I am sure this case is part of FSB`s spy mania," she said.

Voenmekh University refused to comment on the case on Wednesday.

The charge of high treason could lead to a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

The detentions come after a number of scientists and academics have been jailed on grounds of espionage in recent years.

Arms expert Igor Sutyagin was convicted in 2004 of handing over classified information to a British company that Russia claimed was a CIA cover, and sentenced to 15 years in jail, although he denied his guilt.

He was freed as part of a high-profile spy swap earlier this year, when 10 Russian agents were flown back from the United States after their embarrassing exposure.

The 10 Kremlin agents had been arrested in an FBI swoop that initially threatened to derail a warming in Russia-US relations championed by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Many ex-KGB spies have gone on the record slamming the shoddy and apparently antiquated spycraft of the 10, who were working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), a successor of the Soviet KGB.

One of the deported spies, the glamorous Anna Chapman, last month sparked a new scandal after appearing in a racy photo shoot published by tabloids.

Bureau Report

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