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Viktor Kudryavtsev in January 2019
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A 75-year-old Russian scientist spent a year in jail awaiting trial for treason. Now diagnosed with lung cancer, he's been released to his family.

Источник: Meduza
Viktor Kudryavtsev in January 2019
Viktor Kudryavtsev in January 2019
Dmitry Korotayev / Kommersant

On September 27, 75-year-old Viktor Kudryavtsev was released from Moscow’s Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center after more than a year behind bars. The government-employed engineer stands accused of sending confidential data from a state research center to a group of his Belgian colleagues via email. His attorneys have argued that he hadn’t had access to the data in question for more than 20 years.

Previous requests to release Kudryavtsev had been unsuccessful, but investigators have now allowed the scientist to await trial under a travel ban because he has been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. The charges against Kudryavtsev have not been dropped, and his family members say FSB agents have continued to schedule interrogations.

When Meduza spoke with the engineer’s son Yaroslav about his father’s health and legal proceedings, the younger Kudryavtsev explained that his family has no illusions in either regard. Nonetheless, he expressed relief that his father was not sent straight to prison without being permitted to spend time at home. “My father’s diagnosis can’t affect his sentence, but the court could sentence him and then release him if his condition is really terrible,” Yaroslav Kudryavtsev said.

The engineer’s son added that his father has been undergoing regular medical inspections outside the Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center since earlier this month due to a lack of basic equipment at the center itself. Viktor Kudryavtsev had suffered a heart attack and been diagnosed with diabetes even before he was jailed; officials had ordered medical check-ups for him in the past, but none of those inspections detected his cancer.

Yaroslav Kudravtsev told Meduza that he suspects his father’s previous check-ups were “made-to-order” bureaucratic moves intended to allow his father to remain in jail. “Now,” he added, “I think people just didn’t want to be put on the Magnitsky list […] Of course, they could have just kept holding him there, but then he could have died in the pretrial detention center. And why prepare a trial when there’s no one to try?”

Ultimately, investigators chose not to wait for a judge’s house arrest order before releasing Kudryavtsev. His family found out that he had been permitted to sign a non-travel agreement that same day, and they were asked to pick him up in a matter of hours. While Kudryavtsev will be permitted to move freely within the Moscow area, his son said the fact that he is not under house arrest releases the state from any responsibility to provide transportation for subsequent hearings and interrogations.

“He didn’t expect that they would release him,” Yaroslav Kudryavtsev said of his father. “He’s been in so many hearings where his lawyers gave heartbreaking speeches, and then the judge stood up and extended his jail time without reacting to any of it. My father told us that he had forced himself not to count on anything.”

Now, the scientist is spending a couple of days in the hospital to develop a course of treatment. His lung cancer is too advanced to merit an operation, but doctors hope to stabilize his condition to some degree. In the meantime, his son noted, “He says he needs time to get used to the life he had before.”

Interview by Pavel Merzlikin

Summary by Hilah Kohen