A prominent Russian journalist set to go on trial for treason on Monday insisted he was innocent and denounced the case that could see him jailed for up to 20 years.
Ivan Safronov, who stands accused of “state treason in the form of espionage,” worked for years for business newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti and was one of Russia’s most respected journalists covering defence.
Russian media have been under increasing pressure in recent years and several independent outlets have shut down since the beginning of Russia’s military action in Ukraine.
Safronov, now 31, was arrested in July 2020, after leaving journalism to serve as an adviser to the head of the state space agency.
“For a year and nine months I have been forced to say that I am guilty of high treason,” he said in a statement released ahead of the trial set to begin in Moscow later Monday.
“But I repeat and will repeat – I am not guilty.”
The FSB security service has accused Safronov of collecting confidential information about the Russian military, defence, and security and handing it over to the intelligence of a NATO member country.
Safronov said his reporting was based on analysis of open sources and conversations with officials, adding that he had not been told what constituted treason in his case.
“Just put yourself in my place – they are telling you that you have committed a crime, but they are not telling you what crime exactly,” he said.
“How will you defend yourself against this absurdity?… This is a complete travesty of justice and common sense!”
Safronov’s lawyers have said that his arrest was the first time in nearly two decades that a journalist was arrested and jailed on treason charges.
A growing number of Russians in other professions have in recent years been accused of high treason or disclosing state secrets.