Team 29: ✈️ On the case of physicist Valery Golubkin, one of the most prominent experts in the field of hypersonic aerodynamics

29 June 2021

Hi, it’s Dmitry Zair-Bek from Team 29!

When I was young, I dreamt of becoming a pilot or the president. I soon gave up on the second one, but the sky beckoned for ages. Not the sky, really, but aeroplanes. Complex, majestic machines, flawless and very beautiful. I always thought that pilots had more freedom than anyone – just like astronauts, they have the whole world beneath their feet. Then in school, I decided it would be more interesting to be a physicist or an engineer. Even now, those people seem untouchable to me, as it’s thanks to their work and intellect that we learned how to fly.

Scientists are dedicated and incredibly hardworking. Just like the physicist Valery Golubkin, one of the most prominent experts in the field of hypersonic aerodynamics. He’s nearly 70, but he doesn’t look it. He has a long thick moustache and an amiable look about him. Professor Emeritus at MIPT [Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology], he teaches high-velocity aerodynamics. He’s penned over 120 academic papers, books, monographs, and articles in the encyclopaedia Aviation. Golubkin is a family man, with four children and nine grandchildren. He recently celebrated his ruby wedding anniversary with his wife, Svetlana.

A few months ago, Valery Nikolaevich became an enemy of the people.

Early in the morning of 12 April, the professor had a visit at home from the government, for which he’d worked his whole life – a faceless government fronted by FSB officers. Valery put on a suit, the one he wore to work, and set off for questioning in Moscow. The scientist never returned home. That same day, he was placed under the harshest conditions of detention and dispatched to the Lefortovo remand prison.

According to security officials, the physicist had perpetrated the most heinous crime of all: treason. Although the case is classified, we can hazard a guess at what’s going on. The investigation of Golubkin is most likely connected to a case involving a colleague of his, another phystech professor, Anatoly Gubanov. The pair have actually produced several papers together. According to an Interfax source, the prosecution of Gubanov is connected with the development of the hypersonic civilian aircraft HEXAFLY-INT. The scientist allegedly sent secret information relating to this project overseas. However, unlike Gubanov, Golubkin only had Level 3 access to the state secret – that’s relatively low. It’s what interns at technical institutes get.

The day after Valery Nikolaevich’s arrest, he contracted Covid. He was terribly ill, so they transferred him to the infirmary. It turns out that they don’t even give out pyjamas in the remand prison hospital. The professor’s daughter went to the prison with a package of essentials, but they turned her away at the delivery desk, as Covid doesn’t allow it. Then, with the help of human rights defenders, Golubkin’s family got through to human rights commissioners Tatyana Moskalkova and Tatyana Potyaeva. It was only in the evening that they accepted the delivery, thanks to intervention from above.

Valery Nikolaevich’s arrest came as a shock to his family. Neither his wife nor his children believe in the slightest that their 70-year-old father and husband could suddenly turn into a traitor and enemy of the state. “We’re sure he’s innocent. We believe that justice will prevail. We’re counting on there being a public response and on the solidarity of his colleagues,” says the professor’s daughter Irina in an interview with MBX Media.

We will find out more about Valery Golubkin’s case before long – Team 29 has joined the scientist’s defence team. Meanwhile, I have a request to make: please write to Valery Nikolaevich in the remand prison. It’s a scary thing to end up in a strange place, completely cut off from the world – from work, from your family and friends. No prisoner would know how much you’re worrying about them on the outside. They wouldn’t know unless you told them. So, I’m asking you to do just that. Write whatever you wish, ask him a question, discuss the news or physics. Together we can do something for Valery and his family. 

The address is 111020, Moscow, Lefortovsky val St., Bldg 5, Rm 2, Remand Prison 2; Gloubkin, Valery Nikolaevich, DOB 1952.  Read our guide on how to write a letter to a prisoner.

With hope,

Dmitry and T29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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