A Russian courtroom on Monday sentenced a former journalist to 22 years in a substantial-security prison on two counts of treason, signaling a new level of repression towards the free of charge press in Russia and provoking an outcry in the journalism local community.
Ivan Safronov, 32, a previous defense reporter for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, was arrested in July 2020 on his way to operate in Moscow and accused of disclosing point out strategies to reps of international intelligence companies.
Two months right before his arrest, he had stop his task in the news media to turn into an adviser to the head of Russia’s area agency, Roscosmos, but the company stated the expenses relevant to his perform as a journalist.
The severity of the sentence — declared in a assertion by the Basmanny court in Moscow — provoked a furious reaction.
On Tuesday, the Kommersant newspaper — wherever Mr. Safronov released his vocation and became a star protection reporter — boldly chose to print a letter of assist for Mr. Safronov on its front website page, expressing that its personnel associates “remember it every single working day that they could not support.”
“We have not read any general public evidence of your guilt,” the letter, tackled to Mr. Safronov’s latest residence in the infamous Lefortovo prison in Moscow, said. “We are self-assured: In any other predicament, you would get acquitted,” the letter reported.
“We are waiting for you,” it added.
A small business each day that has striven to turn into Russia’s newspaper of history, the Kommersant is owned by Alisher Usmanov, a businessman with backlinks to the Kremlin. The newspaper has walked a great line concerning preserving a degree of independence and steering clear of the fate of other Russian publications that have been shut down underneath political strain from the government.
In a highly secretive situation, Russian prosecutors explained Mr. Safronov had disclosed point out tricks about Russian arms profits to a journalist who worked for the Czech Republic’s overseas intelligence arm, in accordance to his attorneys. He was also accused of sharing unspecified insider secrets about Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria with a political scientist from Germany, according to Ivan Pavlov, his law firm.
Mr. Safronov denied the accusations, indicating that his reporting had relied on information and facts only received from resources readily available to the community. He refused to enter a plea offer with the prosecution, his law firm explained.
The sentencing sent chills via the Russian journalism local community, which has been beneath weighty stress due to the fact the government outlawed the publication of something that deviates from the Kremlin line on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yevgeny Smirnov, a further member of Mr. Safronov’s authorized group, reported that the circumstance had a “colossal cooling effect” on journalists in Russia, primarily those people masking defense and the armed forces-industrial elaborate, and that Mr. Safronov’s protection crew would file an attraction.
Mr. Smirnov explained the protection team considered that, apart from hoping to ship a concept to Russian journalists, the government was trying to find retribution towards Mr. Safronov for revealing Russian programs to market fighter jets to Egypt. Before long right after Mr. Safronov revealed an report in 2019 about the $2 billion offer, the United States threatened to impose sanctions on Cairo.
Mr. Smirnov and Mr. Pavlov equally fled Russia in 2021 following staying concerned in Mr. Safronov’s situation. A third law firm, Dmitri Talantov, was arrested in June and charged with spreading phony info about the Russian army.
At the finish of 2020, President Vladimir V. Putin reported that Mr. Safronov’s situation experienced practically nothing to do with his journalistic do the job and that no a single could be charged with treason for making use of publicly readily available information and facts.
“It are not able to be permitted,” he claimed.
Pavel Chikov, a Russian human legal rights attorney, said he could not locate any precedent for this sort of a severe sentence on charges like Mr. Safronov’s, contacting it a “savage, demonstratively cruel punishment, corresponding to the present state of Russia.”