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Interview: Former Jailed 'Spy' Says Russia Must Stop Seeing 'Enemies Everywhere'

Valentin Moiseyev: "Since there is an organization tasked with catching spies, it must catch spies in order not to be disbanded."
Valentin Moiseyev: "Since there is an organization tasked with catching spies, it must catch spies in order not to be disbanded."
A Russian court has paroled a physicist convicted of spying for China in 2004 in a case widely seen as part of an official campaign to intimidate academics. Viktor Danilov, who insists the satellite-technology data he passed to China was declassified, is due to be released in 10 days.

RFE/RL's Andrei Shary spoke to Valentin Moiseyev, a Russian diplomat who served 4 1/2 years in prison on charges of spying for South Korea. His high-profile espionage case, which dates back to 1998, led to the resignation of South Korea's foreign minister.

Moiseyev talks about the accusations against him, his battle to clear his name, and Russia's eagerness to catch spies.

RFE/RL: What were the accusations leveled against you?

Valentin Moiseyev:
The case against me was pretty comical. I was charged with passing documents undermining Russia's security to a South Korean diplomat. But these documents concerned not only the Russian Federation but also the situation in North Korea and our relations with the North.

Most interestingly, in the two years during which I was under FSB [Federal Security Service] surveillance -- they said they followed me and tapped my phone -- they did not report a single instance of me passing documents or anything else to this South Korean diplomat.

RFE/RL: Did you seek acquittal?

Yes, my wife filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. In 2009, the court finally issued a decision. It ruled that the court that convicted me had been unfair and had not fulfilled any norms.

RFE/RL: Why do you think those charges were leveled against you? Who could have had an interest in sending you to jail?

There are many versions. Events, however, have shown it all stems from the government structures. At first, our government said there were several enemies who were preventing us from living in peace, spies, etc.

Now, we have reached a point when organizations are "foreign agents," when we have no friends at all, enemies are all around us, and behind-the-scenes moves in the West and in the United States are barring us from leading a happy life, just like under the Soviet regime.

Civil Support

RFE/RL: You were a high-ranking Russian Foreign Ministry diplomat, you worked on relations between Russia and North Korea, and between North and South Korea. How did your professional entourage react to your prosecution? Did you feel rejected?

I was immediately placed in pretrial detention at [Moscow's] Lefortovo prison. When I came back, I found there were very few people with whom I could maintain relationships like in the past. There were former colleagues with whom I kept, and still keep, in touch. But most people instantly forgot about my existence.

RFE/RL: In the early 2000s, there were a dozen cases against Russian diplomats and scientists accused, like you, of spying. These cases sparked a civil movement in defense of individuals accused of espionage and high treason. Did you feel this support from civil society?

I did. The committee for the defense of scientists, which was headed by the late Nobel Prize laureate [Vitaly] Ginzburg, fought for me and for other people accused of high treason. I think Danilov's release is partly a result of its work. Human rights organizations have also done a lot for me.

RFE/RL: Do you feel the Russian government broke your life? Has your prosecution inspired you to engage in civic action against similar seemingly unfounded accusations of espionage?

I am now the deputy director of a rights group, and our lawyers are in charge of Danilov's case at the European Court. As for whether my life was broken, of course it was. I was stripped of the job I had performed for 25 years, I was stripped of my social status.

Since there is an organization tasked with catching spies, it must catch spies in order not to be disbanded.

I see myself as the victim of injustice, an injustice that is always with me. It doesn't mean I cry, but that's the way it is.

RFE/RL: Do you blame anyone specifically for this injustice, or do you feel you are faced with an anonymous system you can't defeat?

It's a system that, on the one hand, sees enemies absolutely everywhere. On the other hand, it's a system based on overzealousness. Since there is an organization tasked with catching spies, it must catch spies in order not to be disbanded.

RFE/RL: In your opinion, what can be done to change this situation?

I think we must be more open. We must stop thinking that Russia is some kind of unique state and be like all Europeans. We are essentially Europeans, and we should act like a normal European country that keeps up with other European nations. Then we will no longer see enemies around us, but friends.

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