7 Dec 2022 18:00

Russian appeals court upholds journalist Safronov's sentence for high treason

MOSCOW. Dec 7 (Interfax) - The First General-Jurisdiction Court of Appeals has upheld the sentence of journalist Ivan Safronov, who was sentenced to 22 years in a maximum-security penal colony for high treason, an Interfax correspondent reported.

"The sentence of the Moscow City Court of September 5, 2022 shall be upheld," the appellate panel said in its ruling, which was read out on Wednesday.

The court thus dismissed an appeal by Safronov's defense team, which sought to overturn the journalist's sentence and hand down a new, acquittal verdict.

Following the court of appeals' ruling, the sentence took legal effect and is to be enforced, as Safronov could be convoyed to a penitentiary where he will serve his sentence in the near future.

The trial in the appellate instance, as in the first-instance court, took place in camera, as the materials in Safronov's case were classified.

Safronov's lawyer Daniil Nikiforov said that the journalist's defense team would file a cassation appeal against the court rulings in the case.

Safronov was arrested in the summer of 2020. At the time of his arrest, he was an advisor to the Roscosmos head. Before joining the state corporation, he was a correspondent for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, where he specialized, in particular, in the issues of the defense industrial sector and the space industry.

The Moscow City Court sentenced Safronov to 22 years in a high-security penitentiary and a 500,000-ruble fine. Safronov was found guilty on two counts of high treason.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office said 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 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 defense stated that 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.