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Freed scientist faces cold reality of an unchanged Russia

Ilnar Salakhiev / AP

Valentin Danilov, a Russian physicist convicted of spying for China, tries to warm his ear as he arrives in Novosibirsk, the home of his wife of 41 years, on Nov. 26, 2012, two days after he was released on parole.

Reuters reports — Gray, 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.

Russian punk protester moved to solo cell

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.

Ilya Naymushin / Reuters

Danilov looks out of a window as he sits in a compartment inside a train carriage before leaving Krasnoyarsk for Novosibirsk on Nov. 25, 2012.

Putting a positive spin on his years in jail, Danilov said: "They say that to get to know a country well, one must visit its cemeteries and prison. I used to visit cemeteries often and now I've been to prison too.

"So you can really believe me when I say I know perfectly fine now what Russia is," he said. Read the full story.

Police in Russia detained dozens of people supporting a protest by prisoners over conditions inside the facility. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

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