Russia detains academic for allegedly passing secrets to NATO country: Interfax

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has detained an academic on suspicion of state treason for allegedly passing secrets to a NATO country, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday.

Valery Golubkin, a professor who works at a Moscow institute studying aerodynamics, was accused of handing over secrets in a case involving an arrested physicist, Anatoly Gubanov, Interfax said, quoting a source. It did not name the NATO country.

Gubanov was detained in December last year on state treason charges, Russian news agencies reported at the time.

State treason is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

A lawyer for Golubkin told Interfax that his client denied any guilt and would appeal the Moscow court's decision to take him into custody.

"He's an academic. His job (involves) a pen and paper, not handing over secrets," lawyer Alexander Timoshenko was quoted as saying.

The court did not respond to a request for comment.

A number of Russian scientists have been arrested and charged with treason in recent years for allegedly passing sensitive material to foreigners. Critics of the Kremlin say the arrests often stem from unfounded paranoia.

Russia's relations with many NATO members, and particularly the United States, are at a post-Cold War low.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday the country was carrying out military exercises and combat readiness checks in response to what he said were NATO's plans to send troops close to Russian territory.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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