Law of the Week: Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code [High Treason]

Week-ending 14 August 2020

The former journalist Ivan Safronov is currently being prosecuted for an offence under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code. You can read the text of this article here. Below is a translation: The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation

Article 275. High Treason

“High treason, that is espionage, disclosure of state secrets, or any other assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation, shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of 12 to 20 years with confiscation of property or without such confiscation.

Note: A person who has committed crimes stipulated in this Article, or by Articles 276 and 278 of this Code, shall be relieved from criminal responsibility if he has facilitated the prevention of further damage to the interests of the Russian Federation by informing the governmental authorities of his own free will and in due time, or in any other way, if his actions contain no other corpus delicti.”

Source: The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation


Ivan Pavlov, the lead lawyer acting for Ivan Safronov, in a recent article in Kommersant translated this week by Rights in Russia, writes:

“In order to bring charges under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation it is only necessary to prove the communication of some information by a Russian citizen to a foreigner. This is the only fact that the FSB needs to deal with in terms of collecting evidence. And to help the security services, they have an entire arsenal of technical means for monitoring citizens: internet monitoring systems [SORM], operational investigative activity, and other forms of ‘wiretapping’. When establishing a target, it’s only important to record the fact of transmission of some kind of information to a foreign citizen, for example by email, messenger, phone, SMS or something like that. Everything else will be drawn up in the office of the operational officer, for whom colouring a completely neutral fact with ideological sensibilities is an easy task. For example, the accused’s acquaintance with a foreign colleague can be interpreted as an act of recruitment, questions received in emails can be interpreted as an espionage assignment, and in any case in our country any information can be deemed a state secret, there’s no need to worry about that. This is all in order. Departmental ‘experts’ from the first departments will gladly help their fellow security officers and will come to an appropriate conclusion, adjusting some fragment of the intercepted information to one of the items on the departmental list of information to be classified. For example, in the case of Oksana Sevastidi, a saleswoman from Sochi, (and also several other residents of Sochi), would-be experts from the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces managed to discover Russian state secrets in a pair of SMS messages only 70-characters long.”