“What? This is a trick from the Gulag!” Genri Reznik on the offer by Ivan Safronov’s investigator to sell him a call to his mother.

29 June 2021

Pictured: Genri Reznik, a lawyer and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Новая газета]

Investigator for especially important cases of the FSB, Colonel of Justice Aleksandr Chaban tried to persuade former Kommersant and Vedomosti journalist Ivan Safronov, who is being held in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre on charges of treason, to strike a deal with the investigator in exchange for a telephone call to his mother.  Safronov’s defence lawyer Dmitry Katchev informed Open Media of this.  He said it was about some kind of “joint productive work.”  “The investigator told Ivan that he could devote a whole day to Safronov if Ivan was prepared to cooperate with the the investigation.  And, as a reward for an open conversation, the investigator promised to allow Safronov to call his mother directly from the office and talk to her,” Katchev said.  Safronov refused the offer.

As Katchev has now informed Novaya gazeta, the only thing Safronov has requested during his year in pre-trial detention was to be allowed to congratulate his mother on her birthday last autumn.  “His request was denied on the spurious grounds that he could allegedly have used the conversation with his mother in order to exchange secret information, carry out other intelligence tasks set by foreign secret services and aimed against the security of the Russian Federation, and resist investigation.”  “This was obviously an attempt to put pressure on Ivan, and the investigator was trying to play a card against him,” Katchev says.  Had Ivan agreed, this would have been used as a hook:  “Today has seen fruitful work but, if you want to hear your mother’s voice again, then tomorrow you will have to do something more.”

Genri Reznik, lawyer, deputy president of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers of the Russian Federation, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, told Novaya gazeta that he was outraged by the investigator’s behaviour:

“It’s hard to believe.  If he really did that, it was a vile and illegal act.  In fact, it’s like a trick from the Gulag.

“Yes, a conversation between a defendant and their mother takes place at the discretion of the investigator.  The investigator can agree or not agree, depending on how the conversation is seen as likely to influence the investigation.

“But in this instance, the investigator offered to trade a conversation in exchange for the cooperation of the defendant.  That is, there were no conditions, really none!

“You can also refuse food or drink:  ‘You may eat when you speak.’  These are pure Gulag methods.

“The investigator abused his powers.  And he abused them with a single purpose: to inflict pain.  I would call this torture.  The investigator should be held to account.”


Safronov has not been allowed to see his mother since his arrest on 7 July 2020.  She is a witness in his case, so she cannot see her son.

[UPDATE:  On 30 June 2021, the Moscow City Court extended Safronov’s pre-trial detention until 7 October 2021 – trans.] 

Translated by Elizabeth Teague

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