Aide to Russian space chief held on treason charges

Cheryl Sanders
July 7, 2020

The adviser to the head of Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of treason.

Ivan Safronov, a former journalist who served as an adviser to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, was detained in Moscow by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency.

Safronov is a prominent former journalist who had only worked at Roscosmos for a few months. Until May, Safronov had been writing for the independent Kommersant and Vedomosti business dailies for a total of 11 years.

Roscomos said a probe was under way and that it was "fully cooperating with the investigative authorities".

"Safronov, carrying out tasks for one of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries' intelligence services, gathered and handed over to its representative state secrets and information about military-technical cooperation and about the defence and security of the Russian Federation", the FSB said in a statement.

Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. It said in a statement that the information he provided referred to "military-technical cooperation, defense and security of the Russian Federation".

Rogozin told the TASS news agency Safronov did not have access to secret information.

Roscosmos confirmed Safronov's detention following media reports, saying that the state corporation is assisting in the investigation.

The information reportedly had to do with an article co-authored by Safronov about Russia's deliveries of Su-35 fighter aircraft to Egypt. Kommersant later removed the report from its website, and no charges were filed.

The Bell online news portal pointed out at the time that an article that Safronov had worked on had subsequently disappeared from Kommersant's site.

The entire politics desk of the newspaper resigned in protest against the dismissal of Safronov and another colleague whose name appeared on the story.

Safronov's father also worked for Kommersant after retiring from the armed forces and covered military issues.

Ivan Safronov senior had been investigating claims of planned Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran at the time of his death, Kommersant said.

"Whether I like it or not, it doesn't matter: the publishing house has an owner, he has the right to determine who will work in his asset - Vanya Safronov or someone else", he wrote.

But it has been beset with problems.

Just before this incident, the crew on the ISS had discovered a mysterious hole.

Other reports by iNewsToday