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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Missing Scientist Resurfaces

KommersantSergei Podoinitsyn
A nuclear scientist who mysteriously vanished more than 18 months ago returned home this week, claiming to remember little about where he was, Krasnoyarsk prosecutors said Wednesday.

Sergei Podoinitsyn -- who as a scientist at a nuclear facility in the secretive defense industry city of Zheleznogorsk had access to top secret nuclear information -- turned up showing signs of partial amnesia, said Yelena Pimonenko, a spokeswoman for the Krasnoyarsk regional prosecutor's office.

Podoinitsyn disappeared on Oct. 17, 2003, when he left by taxi for Krasnoyarsk with $9,000 to buy a car, police said. He did not return, and five days later the Zheleznodorosk prosecutor's office opened a murder case in connection with his disappearance.

Speculation flourished that Podoinitsyn had been kidnapped by foreign agents seeking to obtain nuclear secrets or that he had fled to the United States. At the time of his disappearance, Podoinitsyn's colleagues dismissed the talk, noting an increased openness with the United States on nuclear issues and that he had traveled to the United States several times to attend conferences.

Pimonenko said an investigation had been opened into whether Podinitsyn had been kidnapped. She declined to give any details regarding Podinitsyn's reappearance, citing the investigation.

Kommersant, citing Podinitsyn's relatives, reported that the scientist called his wife and the Federal Security Service on Saturday to tell them he was alive. The region's top prosecutor, Viktor Grin, told Itar-Tass that Podinitsyn arrived home to his wife and family on Sunday.

Podinitsyn told his family that he had worked for a while at a construction site in Novosibirsk but could not recall how he ended up there, Kommersant said.

Podoinitsyn worked for 20 years at the the Zheleznogorsk Mining and Chemical Plant, which houses an atomic reactor and large amounts of nuclear fuel.