12 Years in Prison for a Flash Drive: How a 84-Year-Old Scientist in Kharkov Was Sentenced for Treason

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On July 30th the Ordzhonikidzevsky regional court of Kharkov sentenced the Kharkov scientist Mekhti Logunov to 12 years of imprisonment. He is accused of high treason.

The specific feature here is that the defendant is 84 years old. That’s why a 12-year prison term for him is, in fact, life imprisonment.

“Strana” learned about what specifically the Kharkov scientist is accused of.

Behind the curtain of secrecy

As it turned out, the 12-year sentence handed down to the 84-year-old Mekhti Logunov is classified.

However, the public was told by the prosecutor’s office that the pensioner collected classified information about the defense orders of Ukraine.

“The prosecutor’s office proved that it was classified information that belonged to scientific institutions and contained a state secret. Further, it was planned to transfer information to representatives of a foreign state – Russia,” it is said in the message of the prosecutor’s office.

Mekhti Logunov is a well-known Kharkov scientist and inventor. He taught at the Kharkov National Automobile and Highway University (KNAHU) for a long time, and he has a PhD.

Logunov is the author of a number of patents in the sphere of mechanical engineering and waste processing. He also was involved in the ecology of the Arctic and studied the influence of industry on its climate and the indigenous people.

And in 2014 Mekhti Logunov was an active participant of the Kharkov “anti-Maidan”.

Three judges considered his case and pronounced a strict sentence behind closed doors. But it is possible to learn about its contents by using other documents from this case that are in open access.

At an unknown time, in an unknown place, an unknown person…

The essence of the charges is stated in the ruling of the court from August 18th, 2017 about Logunov’s arrest. As it turned out, criminal proceedings were initiated in March, 2017, five months prior to his arrest.

According to the investigator of the SBU Konstantin Podgorny, Logunov in unspecified circumstances, at an unspecified time, and in an unspecified place received the task of collecting and transferring data that is a state secret in the sphere of defense from the representatives of the Russian Federation, who haven’t been established by the investigation.

It remains a mystery how the SBU discovered the existence of tasks from the Russian Federation if they weren’t able to establish who gave them to Logunov, when and where they did it, and under what circumstances.

Then, according to the investigators, Logunov contacted an employee of the Kharkov Physics and Technology Institute (KPTI), who he gave a flash drive to on July 31st, 2017 for the purpose of storing pictures of the institute’s documents on it.

The Kharkov Physics and Technology Institute is one of the oldest research establishments of Ukraine. The institute deals with issues of physics, materials science, and even nuclear research.

How the proof was forged

The SBU carried out secret investigative actions with the flash drive received from Logunov. It was taken from the KPTI employee, and it was documented that pictures are stored on it that, according to the expert opinion, are a state secret – provided that they indeed contain genuine information.

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Then the flash drive, according to the investigators, was transferred back to Logunov. Photos of three documents were stored on it in separate archives.

  • A technical project for the fulfilment of science-research and experimental-design work on “armour resistant metal composites for the local strengthening of the antiballistic protection of lightly armored equipment” (code “KPTI – 2016/1”);

  • Protocol No. 1/2017 of ballistic firmness natural testing of tandem samples of armour resistant structures made from steel composites of various structures;

  • A report on research work in the special purpose scientific-technical program of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine “Research and development of problems with increasing the defense capability and security of the state”.

At the same time, according to the recognition of the investigation, the first document, at minimum, was artificial. It was created by the SBU, which is confirmed by the protocol of producing and examining artificial (imitation) means.

Since the examination considered the documents on the flash drive to be a state secret, provided that they contain genuine information, its unlikely that the technical project of armour resistant composites formed the basis of the sentence handed down to Logunov. But, owing to the secrecy of the sentence, it is still impossible to confirm this.

Thrown into a pre-trial detention center for a discovered flash drive

For some reason the Ukrainian special services doesn’t want to commit to paper how the 84-year-old “Russian spy” transferred classified information to the client. The following day after the secret investigative actions, a search was carried out at the residence of Logunov. During this search law enforcement bodies found this ill-fated flash drive.

As a result of the search Mekhti Logunov was detained. He didn’t admit any guilt in committing a crime.

State treason, which Logunov is accused of committing, is considered to be an especially serious crime – the maximum prison term for this is 15 years. That’s why Logunov was arrested, without being given the opportunity to post bail, for 60 days in pre-trial detention center No. 27 in Kharkov. The court didn’t take into account the existence of social communications, his permanent residence, and even his old age. Afterwards, arrest was prolonged several times up to adjudgment.

It is interesting that no records for the court session that Logunov was arrested for the first time were kept. It is the court that showed the initiative, having referred to the absence of claims from the prosecutor and the lawyer:

How the “red choir” was portrayed

Searches at the homes of several other people were carried out at the same time as the one at Logunov’s place. Documents, flash drives, and computers confiscated during searches were also arrested by the court.

At the same time, the investigator of the SBU Podgorny reported to the court that since 2014 a group of persons led by Mekhti Logunov had been collecting data on the territory of the Kharkov region that is a state secret. Public scientific institutions were in possession of this state secret. Afterwards, the data was supposed to be transferred to “representatives of a foreign state”. According to the investigators, inhabitants of the Kharkov region were a part of the criminal group.

After carrying out all searches and arrests on September 3rd of last year, the head of the SBU Vasily Gritsak said in an interview with the “Pryamoy” TV channel: “on August 17th in Kharkov a big residency of Russian intelligence consisting of 18 people was detained. Suspicion has already been declared to 7 of them. 16 searches were carried out – three grenades, two grenade launchers, trotyl charges, and many other things were confiscated. They conducted saboteur and intelligence activity on our territory”.

According to him, the curator of the residency belonged to Russian intelligence. “He was in Belgorod and controlled the activity of this group in our country,” reported Gritsak.

However, eventually, only Mekhti Logunov was condemned in this case. Law enforcement bodies have reported nothing about the fate of his 17 “accomplices”, who at first were called the “red choir”.

They didn’t want to translate into Russian

In December, 2017 the investigation into the case of Logunov was accelerated. Law enforcement bodies had the task of handing over Logunov in accordance with the procedure of the largest exchange of prisoners that took place in Donbass on December 27th.

However, it wasn’t succeeded to exchange Logunov. On December 19th he was informed about the end of the investigation and the need to study the case papers. At first he demanded the translation of the documents into Russian. But he was refused such a translation.

After this, every day from December 19th to December 22th, and then from December 27th to December 29th, the scientist became acquainted with the case in the investigative department of the Kharkov department of the SBU.

Things between Logunov and his lawyers didn’t really work out: one lawyer spent two days trying to become acquainted with the case, but then, under the pretext of business trips, he ceased to appear, and the other lawyer started working only on December 28th.

As a result, the investigators stated that Logunov and his lawyers deliberately dragged out the time period of becoming acquainted with the case. And the court established a deadline for becoming acquaintance with the case – January 30th, 2018.

Which “trio” pronounced a confidential sentence

At first the prosecutors sent the case to the Dzerzhinsky district court of Kharkov. But it refused to pronounce a sentence. The reason for this was the presence of military documents in the case.

The chairman of the Dzerzhinsky regional court of Kharkov reported that there aren’t enough judges in the court who have access to materials with the “classified” signature stamp. Therefore it was impossible to consider the case in this court.

That’s why in February the regional court of appeal made the decision to submit the case to another district court of Kharkov – Ordzhonikidzevsky. There the case was considered for nearly half a year.

According to the information of “Strana”, the sentence was pronounced to Logunov by the trio of judges of the Ordzhonikidzevsky regional court of Kharkov: the chairman Viktor Chernyak (the head of the Ordzhonikidzevsky regional court) and also members of the collegium – the judges Yury Babenko and Elena Glibko.

All documents of this court, except the first one (about the acceptance of the case for consideration) are classified – their texts are not in the unified register of judgments.

12 years for Russia, 3400 hryvnia for China

The severe sentence handed down to Mekhti Logunov can’t at all be compared to another sentence that was given to a similar person by the Moscovsky regional court of Kharkov. In Kharkov the court fined a designer of tank engines for transferring information to China.

According to the information of “Strana”, the accused in this sentence was Semen Yagudin. Besides the engine-building design bureau, he worked as the chief designer of the “Malyshev Plant”, which produced tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military equipment, and at other Kharkov enterprises.

In the sentence handed down to the design engineer it is said that he worked in the Kharkov engine-building design bureau for 44 years. There he developed engines that are used in tanks and armored personnel carriers of various modifications, and also took part in the development of the “Tyulpan”, “NOTA”, and other artillery systems.

The Kharkov citizen received an offer to leave for China in order to give consultations, recommendations, and also to give lectures on servicing the engines that are used in tanks of various modifications. During nearly a month – in March, 2017 – at the North Chinese scientific engine-building research institute he “provided consultations and recommendations” on serving engines, including those that are used in tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The Kharkov designer earned a reward of 40,000 yuan (the equivalent of about $6,000) for this.

Unlike Logunov’s case, the prosecutor’s office qualified this crime not as State treason, but as “violating the rules of internationally transferring goods subject to state export control”. According to Article 333 of the Criminal Code, this isn’t considered to be a serious crime.

The prosecutor’s office considered that in order to give lectures and recommendations, Yagudin needed the permission of the state service of export control, which the Kharkov designer didn’t receive. The question of the possible disclosure of state and military secrets during these “consultations” didn’t disturb the prosecutor’s office for some reason.

The accused designer agreed with the charges and admitted his guilt. As a result, he opted to reach a deal with the prosecutors, and the court fined the pensioner 3400 hryvnia, even without depriving him of the right to hold certain job positions:

As a result, although Mekhti Logunov, according to the investigators, didn’t transfer the documents received on a flash drive to Russian clients, he received 12 years of prison. And Semen Yagudin, who for nearly a month “gave lectures” to the developers of Chinese tank engines for $6,000, got off with a symbolical fine of 3400 hryvnia (about $130).

That’s why it isn’t excluded that the reason a strict sentence was handed down to the Kharkov scientist is because he participated in the “anti-Maidan” movement, which, as we see, the authorities didn’t forget about four years after it came to naught.

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