Freed scientist finds little change or hope in Russia

Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:30am EST
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By Gabriela Baczynska

KRASNOYARSK, Russia (Reuters) - Grey, pale and thin, Valentin Danilov has changed more than the country that jailed him in 2004 for selling state secrets to China.

The 66-year-old Russian physicist, whose face is now criss-crossed with deep wrinkles, could not be blamed for suffering from "deja vu" when he was released on Saturday from a Siberian penal colony on spying charges he says were politically motivated.

President Vladimir Putin, now 60, is back in the Kremlin for a third term, corruption is rife, the unreformed economy is creaking under the weight of its dependence on energy exports, and opponents are still being imprisoned.

Danilov, whose case human rights activists cite as evidence that Putin uses Russia's weak courts to persecute his enemies, sees little hope of rapid change.

"Nothing has changed," Danilov said in an interview, putting some of the blame on Russia's 142 million people.

"The authorities do not descend on us from the moon. They are the choice of the nation. So the authorities reflect the state of the nation," he told Reuters a few hours after his release from the high-fenced penal colony.

News of one major change did reach him during his last year in the colony in a grimy industrial area outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, 6,500 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow - reports that people had taken to the streets to protest.

Demonstrations against Putin in Moscow and other big cities began a year ago, caused by anger over allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election won by the Kremlin leader's party, but they have largely lost momentum and the opposition is divided.   Continued...

Russian physicist Valentin Danilov stands outside the Krasnoyarsk regional court before his trial resumption in this September 14, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/Files