Donation to «extremists» or «state treason»: FSB long «led» a major academic leader to arrest

Machine trans­la­tion

Every two months have passed since Sergey Abramov, cor­re­spond­ing mem­ber of the Russian Academy of Sciences was placed under house arrest. He is accused of “financ­ing an extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion.” This is a unique crim­i­nal case even by today’s Russian stan­dards and giv­en the cas­es of three Siberian physi­cists from the same insti­tute arrest­ed on sus­pi­cion of “state trea­son.” Details of the crim­i­nal case remain unpub­lished, but T-Invariant found out that Abramov had pre­vi­ous­ly been inves­ti­gat­ed under the arti­cle on “state trea­son,” the sci­en­tist had a secu­ri­ty clear­ance. Also, the rea­son for the pros­e­cu­tion could have been the financ­ing of projects that the sci­en­tist was involved in..

According to Media, Sergei Abramov was placed under house arrest by the Pereslavl District Court of the Yaroslavl region back on April 12. However, the first arti­cles about his arrest appeared in the media only on May 11. At the moment even what “extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion” (alleged­ly?) he trans­ferred mon­ey to remains unknown. Although Kommersant’s source claims that the sci­en­tist is accused of trans­fer­ring mon­ey to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (there is no oth­er con­fir­ma­tion of this yet).

Head of Supercomputers

Sergey Abramov was born in Moscow, grad­u­at­ed from Moscow State University, but worked for many years in the ancient provin­cial town of Pereslavl. From 2003 to 2022 he was act­ing direc­tor and direc­tor, and at the time of his arrest he remained chief researcher at the A.K. Aylamazyan Institute of Software Systems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. For a long time Abramov com­bined his lead­er­ship of the insti­tute with the post of rec­tor of the Pereslavl University estab­lished under the same insti­tute. Now the uni­ver­si­ty has ceased to exist.

Abramov is one of the lead­ing experts on super­com­put­ers in Russia, includ­ing the head of rel­e­vant pro­grams of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. In 2006, Sergey Abramov received the Russian gov­ern­ment award in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy for the devel­op­ment of high-per­for­mance com­put­ing sys­tems (super­com­put­ers) of the “Skif.” It can be argued that Abramov is the most titled sci­en­tist at the moment, sub­ject­ed to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion under a polit­i­cal arti­cle. As in the case of the Siberian physi­cists, all T-invari­ant sources note the total non-pub­lic­i­ty of this crim­i­nal case.

T-Invariant’s inter­locu­tor, famil­iar with the crim­i­nal case, said that the sci­en­tist’s defense was not inter­est­ed in dis­clos­ing any details of the charges at this stage of the inves­ti­ga­tion. T-Invariant sent an inter­view pro­pos­al to Nikolay Abramov, Sergei’s son. At the time of pub­li­ca­tion, no response had been received from him.

“People in the FSB turned out to be normal statesmen”


In his inner moti­va­tion, Abramov is a Russian patri­ot. In 2017, he proud­ly wrote that his grand­son went to serve in the Preobrazhensky Kremlin Regiment. He strove to cre­ate a strong coun­try and offered solu­tions in his field that had no room for cor­rup­tion. The offi­cials did­n’t like that. He was a long­time sup­port­er of the Communists until he gave up on them. He sup­port­ed Lukashenko until the 2020 protests, then became inter­est­ed in Alexei Navalny’s anti-cor­rup­tion activ­i­ties. For me, Abramov is a mod­ern-day Vereshchagin from the movie “The White Sun of the Desert,” a man who was “offend­ed for the state,” says one of Abramov’s colleagues.

One of Abramov’s pho­tos holds a red flag with a ham­mer and sick­le, and in gen­er­al a study of the posts and pho­tos on the schol­ar’s Facebook page leaves more ques­tions than answers about social or polit­i­cal positions.

Another col­league in a con­ver­sa­tion with T-invari­ant stat­ed that he was sur­prised by such an accu­sa­tion brought against Abramov: the Pereslavl sci­en­tist had access to state secrets and could not help being cir­cum­spect. A mem­ber of the expert com­mis­sion, which eval­u­at­ed the degree of “closed” projects in which Abramov par­tic­i­pat­ed, not­ed that the cor­re­spond­ing mem­ber of the Russian Academy of Sciences was engaged in com­mer­cial activ­i­ties, and it can­not be exclud­ed that the real rea­son for his arrest was not at all caused by what he was charged with.

In inter­views over the years, Abramov has said that FSB offi­cers had pre­vi­ous­ly checked him for state trea­son, but no charges were ever brought (see, for exam­ple, CNEWS 2011 inter­view). During a 2015 video inter­view, Abramov is asked if he is not afraid to work at a time “when sci­en­tists are accused of reveal­ing state secrets.

“To fear the wolves is not to walk in the woods. We all walk under God. I was also accused of trea­son. So I went through it no big deal. People in the FSB turned out to be nor­mal states­men. The right request was the right answer. No traces of trea­son were found, and thank God for that,” Abramov stat­ed then.

Whether the cur­rent crim­i­nal case is relat­ed to those inci­dents is unknown.

The article of law is rarely used


Abramov was involved in “rich” projects relat­ed to super­com­put­ers. The head of “T-plat­form” Abramov’s “com­peti­tor” and the Software Systems Institute also sits. Although, most like­ly, he had some recur­ring pay­ment set up. And the local cops, in order to ful­fill the plan, grabbed the first one they caught, and he turned out to be Abramov,” anoth­er col­league of the Pereslavl sci­en­tist told T-invariant.

Financing of extrem­ist activ­i­ty, Article 282.3 Part 1, sug­gests a pos­si­ble pun­ish­ment from a fine of 300,000 rubles to eight years in prison. Last year, Andrei Zayakin, the founder of Dissernet, was pros­e­cut­ed on sim­i­lar charges. Due to a tech­ni­cal error in the col­lec­tion of dona­tions from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Russian law enforce­ment offi­cials learned that Zayakin had trans­ferred a thou­sand rubles to sup­port­ers of Navalny after their activ­i­ties were found to be extrem­ist. Zayakin was forced to leave Russia.

According to Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, financ­ing extrem­ism is still a fair­ly exot­ic accu­sa­tion in the prac­tice of Russian secu­ri­ty forces.

The arti­cle is cer­tain­ly being applied selec­tive­ly. There are not many con­vic­tions so far, although grad­u­al­ly more. For 2022 this arti­cle of the Criminal Code was in the sen­tences of 18 peo­ple, and before that every year not more than five, but more often from zero to two,” notes Verkhovsky.

OVD-Info ana­lyst Darya Korolenko agrees. So far we are talk­ing about dozens of crim­i­nal cas­es, most­ly against sup­port­ers of orga­ni­za­tions of “cit­i­zens of the USSR,” Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as sev­er­al cas­es for dona­tions to the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The anti-extrem­ist leg­is­la­tion is known for its broad word­ing and dis­crim­i­na­to­ry appli­ca­tion. The poten­tial of this arti­cle is enor­mous, and, giv­en the grow­ing ros­ter of “extrem­ists,” there could be more cas­es,” Korolenko notes.

T-invari­ant will fol­low devel­op­ments. Sergei Abramov’s house arrest is cur­rent­ly set until June 10, 2023.

Material was pre­pared by Alexander Litoy, Evgeny Nasyrov.

,   10.06.2023

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