A Russian court docket on Monday sentenced a former journalist to 22 years in a high-security jail on two counts of treason, the court docket mentioned in a press release, signaling a brand new degree of repression towards the free press in Russia.
Ivan Safronov, 32, a former protection reporter for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, was arrested in July 2020 on his method to work in Moscow and accused of revealing state secrets and techniques to representatives of overseas intelligence providers.
Two months earlier than his arrest, he had stop his job within the information media to grow to be an adviser to the top of Russia’s area company, Roscosmos, however the company mentioned the costs associated to his work as a journalist.
In a extremely secretive case, Russian prosecutors mentioned Mr. Safronov had disclosed state secrets and techniques about Russian arms gross sales to a journalist who labored for the Czech Republic’s overseas intelligence arm, in line with his attorneys. He was additionally accused of sharing unspecified secrets and techniques about Russia’s involvement within the battle in Syria with a political scientist from Germany, in line with Ivan Pavlov, his lawyer.
Mr. Safronov denied the accusations, saying that his reporting had relied solely on info obtained from sources accessible to the general public. He refused to enter a plea take care of the prosecution, his lawyer mentioned.
His prosecution and the severity of the sentence despatched chills by the Russian journalism group, which has been underneath heavy stress for the reason that authorities outlawed the publication of something that deviates from the get together line on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yevgeny Smirnov, one other member of Mr. Safronov’s authorized staff, mentioned the case had a “colossal cooling impact” on journalists in Russia, particularly these overlaying protection and the military-industrial advanced.
Mr. Smirnov mentioned Mr. Safronov’s protection staff would file an attraction.
Mr. Smirnov mentioned the protection staff believed that, aside from making an attempt to ship a message to Russian journalists, the federal government was searching for retribution towards Mr. Safronov for revealing Russian plans to promote fighter jets to Egypt. Quickly after Mr. Safronov printed an article in regards to the $2 billion deal, the US threatened to impose sanctions on Cairo.
Mr. Smirnov mentioned investigators had been accumulating info on Mr. Safronov since 2014, however no felony investigation was began then. He mentioned that Mr. Safronov’s emails, which shaped the inspiration of the costs towards him, had been intercepted from 2015 to 2017, however that the wheels of the case towards him had solely began turning two years later.
“It appears like there was an order to lock up Ivan Safronov, they usually began considering how they might use what they received, what could be the cost,” he mentioned.
Mr. Smirnov and Mr. Pavlov each fled Russia in 2021 after being concerned in Mr. Safronov’s case. A 3rd lawyer, Dmitri Talantov, was arrested in June and charged with spreading false details about the Russian military.
On the finish of 2020, President Vladimir V. Putin mentioned that Mr. Safronov’s case had nothing to do together with his journalistic work and that nobody could possibly be charged with treason for utilizing publicly accessible info.
“It can’t be allowed,” he mentioned.
Pavel Chikov, a Russian human rights lawyer, mentioned he couldn’t discover any precedent for such a harsh sentence on fees like Mr. Safronov’s, calling it a “savage, demonstratively merciless punishment, comparable to the present state of Russia.”
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