Russians explain rise in spy scandals with Western intelligence activity, increased counterintelligence

Almost half of Russians explain a recent rise in criminal inquiries on high treason and espionage counts with the activity of Western secret services (26%) and the improved performance of national counterintelligence agencies (20%), Levada Center told Interfax.

Fourteen percent of 1,600 respondents polled in 134 regions on February 20-23 argued it was an attempt of Russian security services to win public attention, to bolster their position and to draw extra funding. Seven percent suspected the Russian authorities of trying to defame any type of opposition activity. A third of respondents (33%) were undecided.

Only 8% of Russians said they had read high treason laws, a number of articles of the Russian Criminal Code that define the notions of high treason and espionage and liability for such crimes. A majority (86%) is unaware of the legal requirements, and 6% are unable to answer the question.

Thirteen percent of respondents have heard about a mother of many children from Vyazma, Svetlana Davydova, who was charged with high treason, and 24% have heard about her but do not remember what the case was about. A majority (60%) knew nothing.

Some 59% of knowledgeable respondents said the accusations against Davydova were far-fetched and unfair. The opposite opinion was expressed by 31%, and 10% were hesitant.

The newspaper Kommersant said on January 29 that a reason for the criminal inquiry against Davydova was the telephone call that she made to the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow. The woman said that a military base located close to her place of residence was deserted and presumed that the servicemen must have been sent to Ukraine. The Moscow Lefortovsky Court said later on the same day that Davydova had been arrested until March 19, 2015, on high treason counts.

A detective released the defendant from custody in the evening of February 3. The case caused a broad public response. The court changed the restrictive measure on Davydova from custody to a travel ban on February 3 and she returned to Vyazma.

Read more: Spy scandals come back: Russia vs. the US in the post-Cold War era

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