A Russian national has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for treason by handing state secrets to China, a court in Siberia announced Thursday.
Vladimir Vasilyev, 52, had pleaded guilty to passing state secrets to China’s intelligence services, the state-run TASS news agency quoted an unnamed law enforcement source as saying. He is at least the third Russian citizen to be convicted of state treason this year and the 10th in the past two years.
The Zabaikalsky region court in a closed-door trial found Vasilyev guilty of high treason and sentenced him to 8 years in a maximum-security penal colony.
The court’s press service added in an online statement that it imposed an additional year of restrictions on Vasilyev after he serves his jail term.
The court service confirmed that the sentence has come into force, according to TASS. It was unclear if Vasilyev’s defense team planned to appeal the ruling.
State treason convictions in Russia have increased significantly since 2014 after a total of 25 Russians were sentenced in 2009-2013, according to Supreme Court data. In 2020 alone, Russian investigators opened around 30 state treason cases.
Critics have accused Russian authorities of paranoia as it has stepped up arrests of citizens, including scientists and journalists, on charges of sharing sensitive information with foreigners.
Despite the arrests, Russia has prioritized closer ties with China in the wake of deteriorating relations with the West following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
3 in 4 Russians View China Favorably
Three out of four Russians view China favorably, an independent poll said Tuesday, a 10% jump from last year as Moscow’s ties with the West grow increasingly strained.
The Levada Center polling agency said 75% of Russian respondents view China in a positive light, up from 65% in 2020. Only 14% said they view China negatively, down from 24% last year.
“Attitudes toward China improved dramatically in 2014 amid the conflict between Russia and the West,” Levada said, referring to the period after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
A majority of Russians, or 56%, also said that worldwide respect for China rose in the past decade, compared with 42% who said the same about Russia itself and 9% about the United States.
A majority of the respondents, 55%, said that Russian-Chinese relations improved Moscow’s global standing, according to the pollster.
One-third said that Russian-Chinese relations weakened Russian-U.S. relations.
Only 8% and 9% of Levada’s respondents, respectively, expressed the view that China has become less respected and that Russian-Chinese ties weaken Moscow on the global stage.
Levada carried out the survey among 1,616 Russian respondents in 50 regions between Jan. 29-Feb. 2.
President Vladimir Putin floated last fall the possibility of a Russian-Chinese military alliance, which the countries have so far rejected in favor of a strategic partnership.
Russia “pivoted” toward China after its annexation of Crimea triggered Western sanctions and sunk relations to post-Cold War lows.