Protests Grow as Russia Charges Ex-Journalist With Treason
(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, charged a prominent former journalist with treason as protests including representatives of state media gathered pace.
Ivan Safronov, who regularly broke news on sensitive arms deals while working for the Kommersant newspaper over much of the past decade, denies the accusations against him, his attorney Ivan Pavlov said Monday. Safronov left journalism earlier this year and worked as an aide to the head of Russia’s state space agency since May.
Investigators allege that Safronov, who was detained about a week ago, passed classified information to Czech intelligence that Prague then passed on to the U.S., according to his lawyer. The charges contain no details about any remuneration or to whom exactly he allegedly provided the materials, Tass reported, citing Pavlov.
Safronov’s prosecution is the latest in an escalating number of espionage cases in the past decade and has led to an outcry in the Russian media. Police detained several journalists Monday for demonstrating outside the Lefortovo prison where he’s being held, following similar protests last week as reporters denounced the charges against their former colleague and called for an open and transparent investigation. The FSB, as the security service is known, hasn’t publicly presented evidence and espionage trials are held behind closed doors.
Members of the pool of journalists who cover President Vladimir Putin, including from state news service Tass and official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, released a video supporting Safronov and demanding the intelligence services make public their evidence. Safronov had spent several years in the Kremlin pool.
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