Journalist charged with treason will mount a spectacular escape from Russia, if released from remand prison, FSB warns

Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly believes foreign intelligence agencies are plotting a special operation to sneak imprisoned journalist Ivan Safronov out of the country. Citing but not naming one of Safronov’s friends, Open Media says federal investigator Alexander Chaban raised this concern during a recent closed hearing at Moscow’s City Court, where a judge ultimately decided to extend Safronov’s pretrial detention.

Ivan Pavlov, the head of the human rights group “Team 29,” confirmed to Interfax that Chaban warned in court that Safronova would supposedly flee to a diplomatic mission or consulate and leave Russia with the help of foreign spies, if released from pretrial detention. “[Chaban’s] theory that Ivan Safronov would flee the country, despite guarantees from hundreds of his colleagues, friends, and public figures, is complete nonsense,” Pavlov complained.

Following this week’s ruling, Safronov will remain in remand prison until October 7, 2021, pending developments in his case.

Ivan Safronov previously worked as an investigative journalist reporting on Russia’s military-industrial complex for the Russian business newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti. He went to work as a communications advisor to the head of Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos in May 2020.

On July 7, 2020, federal agents arrested him on treason charges. According to the investigation, Safronov passed state secrets to Czech intelligence when he was working for Kommersant in 2017. Investigators have never explained what this classified information was.

Safronov maintains his innocence, and defense lawyers are confident that he is being persecuted for his previous journalistic work. While investigators insist that Safronov’s case has nothing to do with his journalism, they did offer him a plea bargain in exchange for naming his sources as a reporter. Safronov refused.

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