Two Russians detained on suspicion of spying for China

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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 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 told AFP.

Lefortovo is a high-security prison in Moscow used by the KGB in the 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 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 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 told AFP.

"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 this summer, when 10 Russian agents were flown back from the United States after their embarrassing exposure.

© 2010 AFP

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