Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist and now an adviser to the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, whom the Russian authorities suspect of cooperating with the Czech intelligence service, was accused of treason on Monday. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. According to his lawyers, Safronov denies the claim.
“My client was charged under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which means treason. He did not admit guilt,” lawyer Ivan Pavlov said to the TASS agency. “The FSB investigators showed us no evidence. They will hardly do so now,” Pavlov added.
According to him, the accusation contains a profit-seeking motive, but it does not include any data on the receipt of money from Czech intelligence services, nor what secret information Safronov specifically passed on or when it happened. “The accusation presented is incomprehensible. It is not clear who supposedly recruited Safronov, what data he passed on, or how he allegedly did it,” Pavlov said.
According to the lawyer, the case documents contain only the conclusions of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service that the materials Safronov allegedly passed on to the Czech intelligence included state secrets.
He added that the Federal Security Service (FSB) already violated the right of his client to know what the suspicion was when imposing detention. The investigators did not provide any evidence. “The documents they showed us are about an abstract representative of Czech special services,” he said.
After the questioning of Safronov by an FSB investigator, his lawyers said that secret service experts had not found anything in journalistic articles that would reveal state secrets. According to them, the FSB claims that the journalist used the VeraCrypt program for encryption, but did not specify what Safronov was supposed to have encrypted. Safronov did not admit guilt and, according to lawyer Evgeny Smirnov, called the accusation “utter nonsense”.
A demonstration was held in front of the detention center in support of Safronov. About a hundred protesters, mostly journalists, gathered in front of the prison. According to TASS, the police detained at least 15 people. All detained journalists were released by the police after statements were drawn up.
Safronov was detained by FSB agents on July 7, and the court sentenced him to pre-trial detention until September 6. According to investigators, he was recruited by the Czech intelligence service in 2012. He completed the task of collecting and transmitting information on Russian arms supplies to Africa and on the activities of the Russian armed forces in the Middle East in 2017. The final recipient of the classified information was the United States, the TASS agency reported.