Russia’s independent media outlet Proekt* has reviewed the indictment in former Kommersant reporter Ivan Safronov’s high treason case. The reporters have found that the prosecution failed to establish how the crime was committed. It also failed to find any witnesses or motive. Besides, all the information considered “classified” by the investigators is publicly available online.
The indictment includes statements by reporters who do not specialise in military affairs. According to Proekt, member of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Ekaterina Vinokurova got acquainted with the message history between Safronov and Czech national Martin Laryš, after which she stated that the messages “may have divulged” state secrets. However, Vinokurova is not an expert in state secrets and military affairs: as a reporter, she only wrote about domestic policy.
The prosecution also invited expert Ruslan Pukhov, member of the Public Council under the Russian Defence Ministry, to analyse the evidence suggesting Safronov had shared classified information on weapon deliveries to post-Soviet states. Pukhov ended up testifying against Safronov. Later, the defence pointed out that the “classified” information was published in the Arms Exports magazine, headed by Pukhov himself.
Yevgeny Smirnov, Safronov’s attorney who works at the Pervy Otdel human rights project, stated that in the spring of 2021, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) investigator Aleksandr Chaban had convinced political analyst Dmitry Voronin to strike a deal with the investigation in exchange for a more lenient sentence
and to state that he was selling classified information about Russia that he got from Safronov to foreign intelligence agencies.
According to the prosecution, Safronov found out classified information from persons privy to state secrets “under the guise of journalist activity”. Those persons later provided statements disproving these allegations.
Proekt also points out that Vladimir Putin stated twice that Safronov had been “convicted” for the work he did at Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. However, he is being charged for the acts allegedly committed in 2015-2018, when Safronov was still working at Kommersant and preparing analytical materials for Czech national Martin Laryš and the aforementioned German political analyst Dmitry Voronin.
“Under the guise of journalist activity and driven by self-interest, Safronov found out state secrets from officials with access to it and handed over this information to the agents of two foreign intelligence agencies,” the indictment reads.
The prosecution confirms Laryš’ involvement with the Czech intelligence services by providing one document belonging to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. The indictment does not include any information from this document.
Safronov has been held at the Lefortovo pre-trial detention facility since July 2020. He is accused of handing over information to Czech intelligence services: according to the law enforcement, he allegedly handed over the information on Russia’s military technical cooperation, defence and security. Later, Syria-related allegations were added to the case. The FSB refused to share the details of the accusations even with Safronov’s defence until the end of the investigative proceedings.
*The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office considers Proekt an “unfavourable organisation”. Reposting this news article in Russia may lead to a fine. A repeat offence may lead to criminal charges.