ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Valery Mitko, a renowned Russian polar scientist, has died while under house arrest on charges of treason. He was 81 years old.
Mitko died Monday in St. Petersburg of an unspecified illness, according to the Pervyi Otdel human rights group that defended him. He said that Mitko was released from a hospital just a few days ago and was unable to walk.
Mitko, a widely acclaimed researcher in the Arctic region and one of the country’s leading hydroacoustics experts, was accused of disclosing sensitive data during an academic trip to China in 2018. He had denied the charges. Mitko had been under house arrest since he was arrested in February 2020.
After retiring from the Russian Navy in 1994 after 30 years in the ranks, Mitko devoted himself to science. He taught at several universities and served as president of the St. Petersburg-based Arctic Academy, an association of scientists he founded that specializes in polar research.
In the past, Mitko suffered several heart attacks and suffered from other chronic illnesses. Pervyi Otdel said that Mitko’s condition was aggravated by stress and house arrest. He noted that Mitko lived with his wife, who has been bedridden.
Political cartoons about world leaders
The group described Mitko as one more victim of the “repressive system that persecuted him for a crime he did not commit.”
Mitko’s case was one of a series of espionage investigations in which Russian scientists were accused of leaking sensitive data. The accusations against him have been criticized as baseless by his defenders and human rights groups.
Funeral arrangements for Mitko were not immediately announced.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.