Putin praises Cold War spies

Putin praises Cold War spies

Putin praises Cold War spies

Presidential candidate and Russia’s current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin walks on the stage to deliver a speech during a rally to support his candidature in the upcoming presidential election at the Luzhniki stadium. REUTERS photo

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hailed Cold War-era Soviet scientists yesterday for stealing U.S. nuclear secrets so that the United States would not be the world’s sole atomic power in comments reflecting his vision of Russia as a counterweight to U.S. power.

Spies with suitcases full of data helped the Soviet Union build its atomic bomb, he told military commanders. “You know, when the States already had nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union was only building them, we got a significant amount of information through Soviet foreign intelligence channels,” Putin said, according to state-run news agency Itar-Tass.

“They were carrying the information away not on microfilm but literally in suitcases. Suitcases!” he said. It has been known for decades that there were spies among the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the U.S. atomic bomb design operation. Putin suggested those who helped Moscow build its bomb acted out of concern for humanity. “It was the cream of the scientific world that was gathered in America, and I personally have gotten the impression that they consciously gave us information on the atom bomb,” Putin was quoted as saying.

Estonian spying for Russia

“They did this consciously because the atom bomb had been used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and scientists from mankind’s intellectual elite at the time understood what unilateral possession of such a weapon might lead to.” Meanwhile, a longtime security official and his wife have been detained in Estonia on suspicion of passing classified information and state secrets to Russia, prosecutors said Feb. 22 in a case likely to add to longstanding tensions between the two countries.

Aleksei Dressen, who works for Estonia’s security police, and his wife, Viktoria Dressen, were arrested at Tallinn Airport as she was boarding a flight to Moscow, prosecutors said. Aleksei Dressen went to the airport to give his wife a folder that contained classified information, said Kadri Tammai, a spokeswoman for the prosecution. Viktoria Dressen, who does not work for the government, was allegedly acting as a courier, forwarding information to Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, that her husband had collected “over a period of several years,” Tammai said.

The arrests sparked memories of another recent Estonian spy case. In 2009, one of Estonia’s top security officials, Hermann Simm, was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison after being convicted of treason for passing domestic and NATO secrets to Russia in a case that shocked the nation. The case turned out to be one of the most damaging in the history of NATO.

Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

100,000 attend pro-Putin rally

MOSCOW-Agence France-Presse

Over 100,000 people have packed yesterday into a Moscow stadium and its grounds to attend a gigantic rally to support Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin bid, police in the Russian capital said in a statement.

Around 90,000 people were already inside Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium and 10,000-15,000 were in the surrounding grounds trying to get inside, police said. A festive atmosphere filled the giant venue, with some people dancing and others holding red heart-shaped balloons reading “For Putin” as participants were serenaded by Russian rock singers. The rally followed a mass march towards the stadium along the Moscow embankment by 30,000 Putin supporters, police said.

Putin said Russians had victory written into their “genetic code” and would not allow foreigners to meddle in their country’s affairs. “The battle for Russia continues, the victory will be ours.”