- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
Russian Supreme Court Upholds 22-Year Sentence for Journalist Ivan Safronov on Treason Charges
Moscow, [Date] – The Russian Supreme Court has confirmed the verdict of a lower court, upholding the 22-year prison sentence for journalist Ivan Safronov on charges of treason. The first-instance court had passed the sentence last September, accusing Safronov of collaborating with Czech intelligence. Despite his denial of any wrongdoing, the verdict has been upheld, making the decision final.
In July 2020, Ivan Safronov, a former reporter for Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers, was arrested by Russia’s FSB secret service while serving as an adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos. He was charged with treason and accused of being recruited by Czech intelligence in 2012. The FSB alleged that Safronov had disclosed classified information about Russian arms supplies to regions like post-Soviet states, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, potentially endangering Russian security and undermining NATO countries.
Throughout the proceedings, Safronov maintained his innocence and rejected offers of a plea bargain to secure a lighter sentence. He contended that his involvement was solely in journalism and that he never had access to state secrets. He believes the accusations are an attempt by the Russian secret service to create false spies when they fail to apprehend real ones.
Following today’s closed-door hearing, the Supreme Court declared that the first-instance court’s verdict would stand, dismissing the defense’s complaint. Journalists in attendance could only witness the court’s final decision announcement due to the case’s classified nature.
Safronov’s defense lawyer, Dmitry Katchev, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision, asserting that his client was being punished for merely doing his job. Independent Russian media outlets previously reported that Safronov’s sentencing might be linked to his reporting on Russian military contracts, which had reportedly angered the Defense Ministry. The defense has insisted on his acquittal.
The accusations of Safronov’s cooperation with Czech intelligence have been refuted by Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who dismissed them as baseless and compared them to the credibility of claims that Russia was liberating Ukraine.
Safronov’s sentence, surpassing punishments typically handed down for murder in Russian courts, is seen as a significant blow to media freedom in Russia, given the Kremlin’s increased crackdown on free speech since the invasion of Ukraine in February, as reported by Reuters last September. The case has raised concerns about the state of press freedom in the country and has drawn international attention to the treatment of journalists critical of the Russian government.
Article by Prague Forum