5 Sep 2022 16:35

Moscow City Court sentences journalist Safronov to 22 years in high-security penitentiary for treason

MOSCOW. Sept 5 (Interfax) - The Moscow City Court has sentenced journalist Ivan Safronov to 22 years of imprisonment in a high-security penitentiary for high treason.

"Safronov shall conclusively be sentenced to imprisonment for 22 years in a high-security penitentiary," the court ruling, read out on Monday, said.

Safronov was also fined 500,000 rubles.

The sentence will be appealed, the journalist's defense told Interfax.

The sentence could be appealed as early as this Monday, Safronov's lawyer Daniil Nikiforov said.

After the sentence was read out, Safronov shouted "I love you!" to those gathering in the courtroom. Journalists, Safronov's family and friends met this shout with applause.

The court read out only the introduction and the resolution of the judgment because the files in Safronov's case were classified, and his trial was held closed to the press and the public.

As reported, during the arguments of the parties on August 30, state prosecutors requested that the court sentence Safronov to 24 years of imprisonment in a high-security penitentiary with custodial restraint for two years, a fine of 500,000 rubles and confiscation of the money obtained, according to investigators, by criminal means.

Safronov and his defense insisted on acquittal.

Three judges chaired by Judge Dmitry Gordeyev heard the case.

Safronov was found guilty on two counts of high treason.

The journalist, who currently still remains an information policy advisor for the general director of the Roscosmos state corporation, was detained and arrested in July 2020.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office said earlier that there is documentary evidence that from 2015 to 2019 "Safronov searched for and gathered secret and top secret information, including on Russia's military-technical cooperation with Collective Security Treaty Organization states, as well as countries of the Middle East, Africa and the Balkan Peninsula."

According to investigators, Safronov "systemically passed such information to representatives of foreign intelligence services, though he was aware that this information could be used by NATO member states to the detriment of the security of the Russian Federation."

Safronov gathered this information in exchange for a reward and used encryption methods in his activities, investigators established.

The charges brought against Safronov on the first count of the case assert that he was recruited by a representative of a Czech security service in 2012 and shared secret information with it related to Russia's military-technical cooperation with African countries and the Russian Armed Forces' activity in the Middle East in 2017. According to the investigation, the end recipient of this secret information was the United States.

In addition, the investigation concluded that Safronov provided political researcher Demuri Voronin, who has both Russian and German passports, with certain information concerning the Russian Armed Forces' operations in Syria up until December 2015 for a reward of $248, and the latter subsequently forwarded this information to representatives of the University of Zurich in Switzerland and the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany. The Russian Federal Security Service believes that this information could have been used to analyze the operations of Russian forces in Syria.

Safronov has pled not guilty and believes that the case is related to his journalistic activity. As his defense lawyers said, Safronov has twice rejected a plea deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has said that Safronov's prosecution is unrelated to his work as a journalist.

Before joining Roscosmos, Safronov worked as a correspondent for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, with a focus on the defense industry and the space sector.

Voronin, who is implicated in the second count of Safronov's case, was arrested in Moscow in February 2020. Like Safronov, he faces high treason charges. His defense team has not commented on the matter. However, according to Safronov's lawyers, Voronin had initially pled guilty, but then said in court that he had falsely testified against Safronov.