The Kremlin has defended a new security decree, saying foreign spies are observing Russian scientists at all times.
“Of course we must be somewhat vigilant, because foreign special services are on alert,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, answering a question on the decree from the science and education ministry.
“There is such a thing as scientific and industrial espionage,” Peskov said, adding, “It exists 24/7 and is targeting our scientists, especially young scientists.”
The ministry directive calls on researchers not to meet foreign colleagues one-on-one and asks filed reports after every meeting.
The decree has sparked condemnation from some scientists. Alexander Fradkov from a mechanical engineering institute told AFP that the decree reminds him of Soviet-era rules.
Peskov, however, noted that some of the decree’s provisions “sound excessive,” adding that Russia “should not be bound by some rules that won’t lead to anything good.”
The document also asks that foreigners are always accompanied by a designated employee during their visits into Russian institutes. It requests special restrictions on their use of computers, phones and other devices such as watches and binoculars.
The deputy chief of Russia’s Academy of Sciences Alexei Khokhlov also criticized the decree on Facebook on Wednesday, writing that it goes against Moscow’s goals to increase the number of foreign students and ease their subsequent employment in the country.
Meanwhile, the science and education ministry said in a statement quoted by TASS agency on Wednesday that the decree “reflected global practice” on international scientific conduct.