Russia raids space research centre in 'treason probe' over spying allegations

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's FSB security services on Friday (July 20) raided a top space research centre in a probe into staff alleged to be spying for the West, the Kommersant daily reported, citing sources.

"This morning, the FSB raided offices of staff at the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building," which is a subsidiary of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, Kommersant reported, citing sources in law enforcement agencies.

It reported that the FSB carried out raids in the town of Korolyov outside Moscow after finding out that Western security services had information on "secret hypersonic developments by Russian industry."

Sources told the newspaper the probe was over "high treason," with around 10 people suspected of "cooperation with Western secret services."

The Russian space agency confirmed that an investigation was taking place and its chief Dmitry Rogozin had been informed, but did not give any details.

"Dmitry Rogozin is informed on this case and gave an order to give the investigative group every assistance," a space agency spokesman told RIA Novosti news agency.

No one was immediately able to comment to AFP at Roscosmos or the research institute.

The FSB has not released any statement on the investigation.

Kommersant reported that searches were also being carried out at the Moscow office of a senior figure at the Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia, the director of its research and analysis centre Dmitry Paison.

RIA Novosti reported, quoting sources, that Paison was of interest to investigators as a person "who might know about the situation" but his work did not involve access to secret information.

The raids come after President Vladimir Putin in March boasted at a state-of-the-nation address of new "invincible" weapons under development, including hypersonic missiles.