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Prosecutor demands 24 years in prison for journalist Ivan Safronov in treason case

Prosecutor Boris Loktionov has requested the Moscow City Court to sentence journalist Ivan Safronov to 24 years in prison for treason under Article 275 of Russia’s Criminal Code, independent media outlet Pervy Otdel (“Department One”) reported on 30 August.

The requested sentence is only one year less than the maximum term, the publication notes.

“There is no evidence of ‘criminal activity’ in Ivan's case. Even witnesses for the prosecution — all of them — have said in court that Safronov was engaged in ordinary journalism. He didn’t break any laws or divulge any state secrets. Safronov’s treason, according to investigator Chaban, prosecutor Loktionov and their colleagues, consisted of re-telling several articles to a foreign journalist,” added Pervy Otdel.

A day prior, independent outlet Proekt managed to get hold of the indictment papers in the treason case against former Kommersant military affairs correspondent Ivan Safronov. Having examined the documents, the journalists discovered that the prosecution never found the weapon of the crime, found no witnesses and did not establish a motive, while all the allegedly “secret” information was publicly available.

The indictment also included testimony from journalists often far removed from the military sphere.

For example, says Proekt, Human Rights Committee member Ekaterina Vinokurova was briefed on Safronov's correspondence with Czech citizen Martin Larysh by investigators, after which she stated that these matters “allow for the disclosure” of state secrets.

Safronov has been held in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre since July 2020. The journalist is accused of handing over valuable government data to Czech intelligence: according to investigators, he allegedly transferred a Czech operative (Martin Larysh) confidential information about Russia’s military and technical cooperation with other countries, as well as the country’s defence and security. Some of the information was later revealed to be linked to Russia’s involvement in Syria.

The FSB, Russia’s State Security Service, has refused to disclose any details of the charges until the end of the investigation — even to Safronov’s defence.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued that Safronov’s prosecution was not linked to his journalistic activities, but to “a rather long period of his work both as an aide to [Roscosmos head Dmitry] Rogozin in the government and at Roscosmos.”

Putin’s statement caused bewilderment among lawyers and journalists, as Safronov was accused of acts committed in the summer of 2017 — the ex-journalist took a job at Roscosmos just before his arrest in July 2020.

Vladimir Putin’s unawareness of the case was dismissed as a “nuance” by presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Roscosmos has also confirmed that the case against Safronov had nothing to do with his work at the state space corporation. Dmitry Rogozin, the outspoken former head of Roscosmos, was also questioned as part of the investigation.

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