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 Details of the criminal case remain unpublished, but T-Invariant found out that Abramov had previously been investigated under the article on “state treason,” the scientist had a security clearance.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.