An adviser to the director of Russia’s state space corporation has been detained on treason charges, the nation’s top security agency has said.
Ivan Safronov, an adviser to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, was detained in Moscow by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency.
He pleaded innocent to the charges during a court hearing where a judge considered the FSB’s request to authorise his arrest.
Safronov’s detention sent shockwaves across Russian media, with many journalists questioning the treason charges and his former newspaper openly rejecting them as “absurd”.
20 Number of years Ivan Safronov could face in prison
The FSB said that Safronov 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 co-operation, defence and security of the Russian Federation”.
The agency released video footage of plainclothes agents stopping Safronov outside his apartment building, searching him and putting him inside a minivan in handcuffs.
Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Roscosmos said in a statement that the charges did not relate to Safronov’s work for the corporation, which he joined in May.
Prior to that, Safronov worked as a correspondent for the top business newspaper Kommersant for nearly a decade until 2019, and after that worked for a year for another business paper, Vedomosti.
He covered military issues, arms trade and government affairs.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Safronov’s detention is not related to his activities as a journalist.
Last year, the FSB reportedly opened an inquiry following Safronov’s article 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.
Safronov’s father also worked for Kommersant after retiring from the armed forces and covered military issues.
In 2007, he died after falling from a window of his apartment building in Moscow.
Investigators concluded that he killed himself, but some Russian media questioned the official version, pointing at his intention to publish a sensitive report about secret arms deliveries to Iran and Syria.