© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ivan Safronov, a former journalist and an aide to the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos who remains in custody on state treason charges, reacts inside a defendants’ cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia September 2, 2020.
(Reuters) – Russian former reporter Ivan Safronov said ahead of the resumption of his treason trial on Monday that he plans to vigorously fight the charges against him and does not fear the prospect of being jailed.
Safronov, who covered military affairs for the Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers before becoming an aide to the head of Russia’s space agency two months before his arrest in July 2020, faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
He denies accusations of passing military secrets about Russian arms sales in the Middle East and Africa to the Czech Republic, a NATO member, while he worked as a reporter in 2017, calling them “a complete travesty of justice and common sense”.
His detention sent a chill through Russia’s media landscape, where controls were already tight and have been tightened further since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
His trial resumes behind closed doors later on Monday.
Striking a defiant tone in personal correspondence seen by Reuters on Monday, Safronov said he harboured no illusions about the prospect of being imprisoned for his alleged offences.
“I will fight until the end, there is no doubt about that,” Safronov wrote in a letter sent from Moscow’s Lefortovo prison and dated March 26.
“If it’s a prison term, then it’s a prison term. It absolutely doesn’t scare me,” said the letter, shown to Reuters on condition the addressee remained anonymous.
Safronov has said state investigators pointed to his acquaintance with a Czech journalist he met in Moscow in 2010 who later set up a website which Safronov said he contributed to using information entirely based on open sources.
Since sending troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moscow has introduced a law outlawing the use of certain terms to describe its military intervention in Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation”.
That prompted many independent media outlets to close or relocate.