ROAR: Vague “political future” for deported Russian scientist

Russian nuclear researcher Igor Sutyagin, one of the participants in the biggest spy swap in history, may become a member of a Russian opposition party.

A branch of the Yabloko liberal party in Kaluga Region has offered membership to Sutyagin, who is settling down in Britain after the spy exchange between Russia and the US that took place on July 9.

Sutyagin had been the head of the military-technological and military-economic policy sector in the foreign political research department at the Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In April 2004, he was sentenced by the Moscow City Court to 15 years in a high security penitentiary for high treason through spying. Sutyagin maintained his innocence and said all the information he had provided was available from open sources.

Prior to the swap deal, he had to admit his guilt, his relatives and lawyer said. The scientist along with three other people was pardoned by President Dmitry Medvedev and exchanged for ten alleged Russian spies who had been detained in the US. According to his family, Sutyagin is staying in a London suburb, waiting for a British residence permit.

The head of Yabloko’s Kaluga branch Vladislav Morozov said the offer to Sutyagin was forwarded through his family. The researcher is registered in the town of Obninsk of Kaluga Region, Interfax said.

To become a party member, Sutyagin has to submit his application, which will be considered on general terms during the standard procedure, Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin said. The expelled researcher can join the party’s ranks, Mitrokhin said, but added it was not his final remark.

Opinions may vary, the party’s leader said, but he did not rule out that Sutyagin could be admitted. “He is a Russian citizen, and the verdict issued to him looks fairly dubious,” Mitrokhin was quoted by Interfax as saying. “There had been a host of procedural irregularities, and he has now been pardoned, which means he is a rightful citizen of this country,” Mitrokhin said.

At the same time, he refused to speak for the party’s entire leadership. Yabloko’s deputy head Sergey Ivanenko told Interfax the information had to be checked, adding that “all is not well there, in our Kaluga branch.”

Mitrokhin, in his turn, said people mostly become members of the party through regional branches. If the Kaluga branch admits Sutyagin, it has the full right for it, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.

Different views could be voiced at the party’s federal level, Mitrokhin said. In this case, the issue will be solved “in a democratic way” and the decision will be put to a vote, he added. Before the party takes a decision, the case of the researcher has to be analyzed again, Mitrokhin said.

Yabloko, which positions itself as “a social liberal party,” won only four mandates in single-seat constituencies during the 2003 parliamentary elections. In the 2007 general elections, the party lost its representation in the State Duma.

“It is interesting that representatives of opposition parties have immediately become interested in Sutyagin, who was deported from Russia,” Gazeta daily said. “They probably want to use the scandalous story in their interests,” it added.

Another daily, Novye Izvestia, quoted Vladislav Morozov, head of Yabloko’s Kaluga branch, as saying that “such known figures as Sutyagin could attract society’s attention to some problems that our party may solve and is solving successfully.”

Sutyagin’s father, Vyacheslav, was included in the Yabloko’s party’s list during local elections in Obninsk, Kaluga Region in March, although he was not formally a party member. The party believes this was one of the reasons why the party was banned from elections, the daily said.

Some observers and politicians representing other parties, including the ruling United Russia, criticized Yabloko’s invitation to Sutyagin. Novye Izvestia quoted political scientist Pavel Danilin as saying that the party “expressed its anti-Russian position and, in fact, declared a war to the state.”

Mitrokhin told the paper Sutyagin’s possible membership would probably affect the party’s popularity neither negatively nor positively.

The decision of the Kaluga branch was not agreed with the Moscow office of the party, Artur Grokhovsky, a member of the regional branch in the Russian capital, said. The leadership in Kaluga did not think about the possible “image damage” to the party, he told Ekho Moskvy radio.

The invitation was offered to a man “who is unlikely to return to Russia,” Grokhovsky said. However, the decision will be made by the Kaluga branch, he added.

Sutyagin himself said he would like to understand the situation first. His brother Dmitry noted the researcher at the moment was not going to start “a political career,” Gazeta daily noted.

Meanwhile, the 12th Russian citizen mentioned in connection with the latest spy scandal was deported from the US by decision of the immigration court. The man’s name is Alexey Karetnikov, Itar-Tass said.

According to US officials, the 23-year-old Russian citizen voluntarily agreed to deportation instead of further judicial procedures and admitted that he was staying in the US in violation of immigration laws.

Karetnikov reportedly lived in Seattle and worked for Microsoft. He was not accused of espionage or even being an unregistered Russian agent. It is unclear how he could have been linked with the 11 alleged “agents” who were earlier exchanged for Sutyagin and three others in the latest Cold War-style swap.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT