‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Journalist Ivan Safronov is a political prisoner

28 November 2022

Ivan Safronov has been sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment in a strict regime penal colony on a trumped up charge of treason

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project, ‘Political prisoners. Memorial,’ considers journalist Ivan Safronov a political prisoner in accordance with international standards. He has been prosecuted under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on state treason for his journalistic activities. We believe the criminal case against Safronov violates the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information and is intended to intimidate civil society in Russia. 

We demand the release of Ivan Safronov from custody and his full rehabilitation. 

What are the charges against Ivan Safronov?

Ivan Safronov is a Russian journalist who worked for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, writing on topics related to Russia’s defence and foreign policy. He later moved to work for the Roscosmos state corporation as a media policy advisor.

On 7 July 2020, Safronov was remanded in custody on charges of treason (Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code). He was charged with passing classified information to the Czech secret services and to a citizen of Germany, Demuri Voronin.

On 5 September 2022, Safronov was sentenced to 22 years in a strict regime penal colony. On 7 December 2022, the Supreme Court of Russia dismissed Safronov’s appeal and his sentence entered into force.

On 29 August 2022, Project, an online publication, had made publicly available the indictment in the journalist’s classified criminal case.

It follows from the text of the indictment that Safronov is accused of the following:

  • In December 2015, he forwarded to German citizen Demuri Voronin an analytical report on the participation of Russian troops in combat operations in Syria. For this report work, Safronov received $248 by Western Union transfer.
  • In 2017-18, Safronov wrote reports for the Czech journalist Martin Larish on Russian military and technical cooperation with countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Balkan Peninsula. He received 87,100 euros and 80,500 roubles for these reports.

Why do we consider Safronov a political prisoner?

We believe Ivan Safronov’s case is a vivid example of the fabrication of treason charges.

As the analysis of the indictment by the Project journalists shows, the FSB were not able to prove the journalist’s guilt with regard to the charges against him.

Safronov’s cooperation with Voronin and Larish was analytical in nature and limited to work with open sources. The investigation produced no convincing evidence of any connections between Larish and Voronin and foreign intelligence services, allegations that were supported only by references to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

No evidence of Safronov’s guilt was gathered by means of the surveillance of the suspect and wiretapping of his phones that had been going on since 2014.

The investigation arbitrarily declared information that is freely available to be state secrets. The investigators did not identify what the source of this allegedly secret information could be when Safronov himself never had access to state secrets.

The investigation failed to establish a motive for the crime. In the episode with Voronin, Safronov allegedly committed state treason in exchange for $248, while the episode involving receipt of relatively large sums from Larish was not proven.

Safronov’s rights were grossly violated during the investigation. He was denied knowledge of the charges for a long time; unprecedented pressure was placed on his lawyers; he was not allowed to see his mother and fiancée; and from August 2021, restrictions were placed on his correspondence.

We believe that in addition to spy mania, Safronov’s prosecution comes from a desire by law enforcement officials to punish him for his previous journalistic activities. It is also intended to shut down media coverage of topics such as arms exports and Russian military-technical cooperation with other countries.

A more detailed description of the case and the position of the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ human rights project are available on our Telegram publishing platform.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

Letters can be sent to the following address:

In Russian: 111020, г. Москва, ул. Лефортовский Вал, д. 5, корп. 2, ФКУ СИЗО-2 ФСИН России, Сафронову Ивану Ивановичу, 1990 г.р. 

In English: Ivan Ivanovich Safronov (born 1990), Remand Prison No. 2, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, 5 (Building 2) Lefortovsky Val, Moscow, 111020, Russia 

You can also send an electronic letter for no fee using the form provided here.

Ivan Safronov’s legal defence is conducted by the human rights organisation First Department [Pervy otdel]. You can donate to this organisation here.

In addition, you can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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