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Russian space adviser detained on treason charges

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-09 10:00

Ivan Safronov, a former journalist who works as an aide to the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, detained on suspicion of treason is escorted after a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

An adviser to the director of Russia's state space corporation had been detained on treason charges, the country's top security agency said on Tuesday.

The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, released a clip showing officials arresting Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, in Moscow.

According to the FSB, Safronov, 30, is accused of relaying sensitive data to a spy agency of an unspecified NATO member. It said in a statement that the information he provided referred to "military-technical cooperation, defense and security of the Russian Federation".

The FSB also said: "Safronov was performing tasks for a NATO member's intelligence service, collecting confidential data about Russia's military and technical cooperation, defense and security and handing it over to its NATO intelligence service representative."

Defense lawyer Yevgeny Smirnov said the FSB alleged that the Czech intelligence agency recruited Safronov in 2012, paid him for his services and collected the information for US interests.

Up to 20 years

Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

Roscosmos had said that Safronov didn't have access to state secrets, and claimed that the charges didn't relate to Safronov's work for the corporation, which he joined in May.

Before that, Safronov worked as a correspondent for the top business daily Kommersant for nearly a decade until 2019, and after that worked for a year for another business daily, Vedomosti.

He covered military issues, the arms trade and government affairs.

"He was invited to cover Roscosmos activities one and a half months ago. He did not have classified information clearance," Rogozin said.

The Roscosmos chief underlined that he knew Safronov for a couple of years as a journalist who had a very good grasp of materials he published in Kommersant. "I did not doubt his high professionalism and personal decency," he added.

Rogozin is also confident that the investigation will resolve the case.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Safronov's detention wasn't related to his activities as a journalist. Grilled about the case during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Peskov described Safronov, who once covered the Kremlin, as a "talented journalist".

The Kommersant newspaper, in a statement, called the charge of treason against Safronov "absurd".

In his court appearance on Tuesday, Safronov said he did not admit any guilt.

He refused to give evidence during questioning by the FSB, exercising his right to remain silent, the Tass news agency said.

Last year, the FSB reportedly opened an inquiry following an article by Safronov that claimed that Russia had signed a contract with Egypt for the delivery of sophisticated Su-35 fighter jets. Kommersant later removed the report from its website, and no charges were filed.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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