The director of a top Russian science institute, arrested on suspicion of treason along with two other hypersonic missile technology experts, stands accused of betraying secrets to China, two people familiar with the case told Reuters.

Alexander Shiplyuk, head of Siberia’s Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (ITAM), is suspected of handing over classified material at a scientific conference in China in 2017. The 56-year-old maintains his innocence and insists the information in question wasn’t classified and was freely available online, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said security services were watchful for possible cases related to “betrayal of the motherland”.

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