Russian ex-journalist accused of treason says he doesn't know his alleged crime

FILE PHOTO: Former journalist Ivan Safronov leaves after a court hearing in Moscow
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Tom Balmforth
·2 min read
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By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A former Russian newspaper journalist accused of treason says state investigators have still not told him exactly what his alleged crime was, over six months after his arrest.

Ivan Safronov, 30, covered military affairs as a reporter before starting work at Russia's space agency last May. He was detained last July and is being held in prison, accused of passing military secrets to the Czech Republic.

Safronov, whose treatment has provoked an outcry among some Russian journalists, faces up to 20 years in jail. He denies treason.

"They say I committed a crime in 2017, but they don't say exactly what I did - they tell me to remember," Safronov said in an interview published on Monday by Kommersant newspaper, where he used to work.

"I spent three months trying to dig up something on myself, but I haven't remembered any crimes," he said in written responses to questions submitted by the daily.

The Kremlin declined comment on Safronov's remarks. It said it was up to Russia's courts to review the case.

Safronov, who said he cannot communicate with his close relatives as all of them have been made witnesses, suggested the accusations were linked to his acquaintance with a Czech journalist he met in Moscow in 2010.

When the Czech left Russia at the end of a work assignment, he set up a pay-to-view information agency for other media outlets containing analysis and press digests, Safronov said.

He said he was sent possible coverage topics and submitted texts from 2017-19 based on "information from open sources."

"Investigators see the fact of my acquaintance with (the journalist) as recruitment, his messages as intelligence missions, and a state secret was somehow found in my answers," he said.

Safronov said he had no access to state secrets as a journalist and that investigators had told him "the accusation is not linked to journalism work."

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage)