The Daily Telegraph

Russian journalist gets 22 years for ‘high treason’

I love you, defence writer tells supporters, as he is sentenced for allegedly passing on secrets

- By Joe Barnes

A LEADING Russian journalist told his family he loved them yesterday as he was sentenced to 22 years in prison on “fabricated” charges of treason.

Ivan Safronov, 32, a respected defence correspond­ent at the Kommersant business newspaper, was accused of collecting state military secrets and handing them to Czech spies.

In the Moscow court, supporters furiously protested his innocence.

Proceeding­s were held behind closed doors with the prosecutio­n’s evidence withheld from the public as the trial was for alleged treason.

“Ivan Safronov was found guilty of committing two crimes under the high treason article of the criminal code,” Evgeny Smirnov, his lawyer, wrote on social media.

In a recent article, Proekt, a Russian investigat­ive outlet, claimed the state secrets Safronov was accused of sharing were already publicly available. Safronov was detained in 2020 accused of treason, but his sentence yesterday served as a warning about the dangers of negative reporting.

“Ivan Safronov has been sentenced to a savage, demonstrat­ively cruel punishment, that reflects the current realities in Russia,” human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov posted on the Telegram app.

Prior to his arrest, Safronov, who went on to work in public relations at the Russian space agency, was also questioned over an article he wrote revealing a deal to sell Russian SU-35 fighter jets to Egypt.

Since his detention, he has long denied the accusation­s and said his prosecutio­n is “directly related to his journalism”.

“I will write to everyone. Write to me. I love you,” Safronov said he was taken from the courtroom, while his supporters chanted “freedom” and applauded the journalist.

His legal team said they would appeal the punishment.

Last week, Safronov was offered a reduced 12-year-sentence if he pleaded guilty. According to his lawyer, the 32-year-old refused the offer.

“This is a terrifying amount of time,” his supporters wrote in a statement.

“It is clear to us that the reason for Ivan Safronov’s persecutio­n is not ‘treason’, for which there is no proof, and instead his journalism,” they added.

Safronov’s father, who also worked for Kommersant covering defence, died in 2007 after falling out of a window from his Moscow apartment.

Investigat­ors concluded he had killed himself, but there are doubts as Ivan Safronov Snr was working on a story about secret Russian arms sales to Iran and Syria when he died.

Meanwhile, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper announced it had lost its media licence. Independen­t media outlets have been muzzled by the Russian authoritie­s since the start of the war in Ukraine, forcing staff to flee abroad.

Novaya Gazeta stopped publishing a month after the start of the war, amid a Kremlin crackdown on critics.

 ?? ?? Ivan Safronov is jailed for 22 years at a court in Moscow on ‘fabricated’ charges
Ivan Safronov is jailed for 22 years at a court in Moscow on ‘fabricated’ charges

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