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Ivan Safronov, a former journalist and adviser to the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos accused of state treason, stands inside a defendants’ cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia September 5. (Press Service of Moscow City Court/Handout/Reuters)

In the most high-profile case of treason in recent years, the Moscow City Court on Monday sentenced Ivan Safronov, a former journalist and adviser to the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, to 22 years in prison, according to an RIA Novosti correspondent reporting from the courtroom.

“[The court rules out] to sentence Safronov to a term of 22 years to be served in a high security jail,” the judicial board announced the decision. In addition, he was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom after his release and a fine of 500,000 rubles.

The defense has 10 days to appeal this decision, it has not yet entered into force, according to RIA 

More background: Safronov was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in July 2020 after he was accused of collecting state confidential data about Russia’s military and technical developments, as well as defense and security, and handing it over to NATO.

As a journalist, Safronov specialized in reporting on military and space topics for the Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers before moving on to work as an adviser to the former head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.

Details of the case were not officially released, as the case was handled behind closed doors due to the severity of the charges. Lawyers for Safronov said last week the prosecutor offered the journalist a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence of 12 years, which he declined.

A few Russia’s remaining independent media outlets, including Meduza, Novaya Gazeta, TVRain, and others, published a statement in support of Ivan Safronov Monday demanding the release of the journalist and calling for an investigation into alleged legal violations in the case.

“It is clear to us that the reason for Ivan’s persecution is not ‘treason’, which is not confirmed by anything, but his journalistic work and materials that he published without regard to the opinion of the Ministry of Defense and the Russian authorities,” the statement said.



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