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Russia Raids a Renowned Physics Institute, and Theories Abound

Russia Raids a Renowned Physics Institute, and Theories Abound

MOSCOW — The Lebedev Physics Institute in Moscow helped the Soviet Union detonate its first nuclear bomb, figured out how to build a hydrogen bomb and has stood for decades in the vanguard of Russian scientific achievement. Seven of its scientists have won Nobel Prizes.

So it came as a shock last week when, shortly before celebrations to mark the 85th anniversary of the illustrious institute’s founding, its halls were suddenly swarming with security officers wearing masks and armed with automatic weapons.

They searched the office of the institute’s director, Nikolai N. Kolachevsky, and questioned him for six hours about a supposed plot to export military-use glass windows. He later denounced the raid as a “masked show,” a phrase Russians use to describe increasingly over-the-top interventions by law enforcement agencies.