Russian President Vladimir Putin has commented on the 22 years of strict regime colony sentence over “high treason” charges for Ivan Safronov, a former Kommersant and Vedomosti journalist and advisor to the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.
“I don’t know the details, I just know that he wasn’t just a journalist but also the advisor of Roscosmos’ head and he earned money not only through journalism but through collecting relevant materials and giving them to a foreign intelligence agency.
Counterintelligence worked his case for several years, tracking his communication channels with the people who were paying him for this classified, non-public information. [Counterintelligence] recorded everything. Later, during the investigation, both Safronov and his communication devices were arrested. The court deemed [the charges] proven and passed the appropriate judgement.
I cannot judge how fair the verdict is in relation to the crime. It’s a prosecutor general’s job, if he thinks that the punishment is excessive, then the prosecutor general can always appeal, and the defendant’s lawyers can always submit relevant documents to a higher authority,” the president said during a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum.
Earlier, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said that Ivan Safronov’s sentence was harsh, noting that he would not comment on it.
On 5 September, a court in Moscow sentenced Ivan Safronov to 22 years in maximum-security prison over high treason charges, while also issuing him a 500,000 rubles (€8,300) fine and a 2-year custodial restraint.
The trial was closed to the press and the general public. The court only announced the punishment for Safronov, and left their statement of reasons undisclosed.
Proekt*, an independent Russian media outlet, analysed the indictment papers in the case. Having examined the documents, the journalists discovered that the prosecution never found the instrument 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 field. For example, reports 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.
*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.