Russia Detains Ex-defence Reporter For Treason

A high-profile Russian journalist who became an adviser to the head of the space agency was detained Tuesday on charges of treason for allegedly divulging state military secrets, the security service said.

Ivan Safronov, 30, worked for business outlets Kommersant and Vedomosti and was one of Russia’s most high profile and respected journalists reporting on defence.

His arrest on charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars sparked an uproar among supporters, some of whom took to the streets of Moscow to protest.

Twenty people had been detained, said OVD Info which tracks detentions at political protests.

Safronov’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said it was the first time in nearly 20 years that a reporter had been accused of state treason in Russia, adding the fate of independent journalism was now on the line.

Supporters took to social media arguing that the charges were a response to his reporting, which had ruffled feathers among the ruling elite.

Safronov’s arrest came after President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for two decades, oversaw a controversial nationwide vote that allows him to extend his grip on power until 2036.

On Tuesday, the Federal Security Service said Safronov had collected confidential data about the Russian military, defence, and security and was “handing it over” to the intelligence of a NATO member country.

Moscow’s Lefortovsky court was expected to rule on whether to approve Safronov’s arrest.

Police arrested several journalists demonstrating in support of their colleague after they demonstrated outside the Moscow headquarters of the FSB security service
 AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF

The Kremlin insisted his detention was not related to his previous work as a journalist.

“Our counterintelligence is very busy, has a lot of tasks, and does its job very well,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

But the space agency said the charges were unrelated to Safronov’s work at Roscosmos where he started working in May.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said Safronov “did not have access to secret information”.

In recent years authorities have ramped up efforts to squelch dissent and a wide range of individuals including scientists have been accused of high treason or disclosing state secrets.

Safronov was forced to resign from Kommersant in May last year, prompting the resignation of the newspaper’s entire politics desk

Safronov was forced to resign from Kommersant in May last year, prompting the resignation of the newspaper’s entire politics desk
 AFP / Alexander NEMENOV

Security analyst Andrei Soldatov said Safronov’s arrest indicates that repression in the country may be entering a new phase.

“The case against Ivan Safronov is an absolutely new level of repression against journalism in the country,” he said.

Safronov reported on the military, politics, and Russia’s space programme, which has suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks and corruption scandals in recent years.

In 2019, Kommersant removed from its website an article he co-authored about the delivery of Russian jets to Egypt after court proceedings were opened into the disclosure of state secrets.

He was forced to quit Kommersant in May last year following the publication of an article he co-authored which reported that the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament was planning to step down.

The entire politics desk of the newspaper resigned in protest against his dismissal.

A number of media outlets including Kommersant on Tuesday issued statements in defence of Safronov, describing him as one of the best Russian journalists and a patriot.

“It is simply impossible to imagine Ivan, the son of an officer, to be a traitor,” said Vedomosti.

Safronov followed in the footsteps of his journalist father who also covered defence for Kommersant.

Ivan Safronov senior died in 2007 after falling out of a window under murky circumstances. At the time of his death he worked on a story about Russia sending air defence systems and planes to Iran and Syria.

On Monday, a reporter from the northwestern city of Pskov was fined nearly $7,000 for “justifying terrorism”, in a case that sparked an outcry.

Prosecutors had requested that Svetlana Prokopyeva be sentenced to six years in prison for a commentary about a bomb attack and banned from working as a journalist for four years.

“Watching arrest after arrest of Russian journalists — it’s starting to look like a concerted campaign against #MediaFreedom,” tweeted Rebecca Ross, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Moscow.

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Indonesian court finds three Papuan anti-racism protesters guilty of treason

An Indonesian court found three Papuan men guilty of treason on Wednesday in a high-profile trial closely watched as an indicator of political freedoms in the world’s third-largest democracy.

The Balikpapan district court sentenced Papuan activist Buchtar Tabuni, a senior figure in the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, to 11 months in prison. Prosecutors had called for Tabuni to be jailed for 17 years.

Two university students, Fery Kombo and Irwanus Uropmabin, were sentenced to 10 months each. Judges said Uropmabin had been found guilty of treason for making pro-referendum flyers during anti-racism demonstrations that swept across Papua last year.

Buchtar Tabuni was sentenced to 11 months in prison for treason by an Indonesian court


The three Papuans are part of the “Balikpapan Seven” group of West Papuan activists and university students arrested by police last August for involvement in anti-racism riots that erupted in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces last August.

The demonstrations were sparked by racist attacks on several Papuan students in Java, where they were allegedly called “monkeys”.

The verdict for the other four defendants, who are facing between five and 15 years in prison, is expected later on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said the sentences handed down on Wednesday were significantly lower than what prosecutors had sought, but that the Papuans should not stay “even a single night behind bars”.

“They were protesting against racism but are convicted of treason,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

“The offence here is not the Papuans’ actions, but Jakarta’s willingness to prosecute peaceful dissent and tarnish Indonesia’s international reputation.”

The seven Papuans were arrested in the provincial capital of Jayapura last year and moved to Balikpapan on Indonesian Borneo for security reasons.

The resource-rich and remote provinces of Papua and West Papua came under Indonesian rule in a controversial 1969 referendum sanctioned by the United Nations.

Activists staging a protest supporting West Papua's call for independence from Indonesia in Jakarta.

Activists staging a protest supporting West Papua’s call for independence from Indonesia in Jakarta.


A low-level insurgency for independence has ensued since and the topic remains deeply sensitive to Indonesia’s government.

Flying the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, is banned in Indonesia. Independence figure Filep Karma was convicted of treason after raising the flag publicly and spent 11 years in jail before his release in 2015.

The Balikpapan trial has drawn unusual levels of support in Indonesia, where it has coincided with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

That has inspired a local adaptation – Papuan Lives Matter – which Indonesians have used on social media and in street demonstrations calling for the Papuans’ release.

The global movement has also sparked online forums about perceived racism and discrimination in Indonesia, events that activists say have been subject to obstruction and intimidation.

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What Comey, Brennan Orchestrated ‘as Close to Treason as You Can Get’

In a Sunday interview on New York AM 970 radio’s “The Cats Roundtable,” Rudy Giuliani, personal legal counsel for President Donald Trump, weighed in on the Department of Justice’s decision to drop charges against former National Security Adviser Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn after new evidence came to light showing FBI agents attempted to entrap Flynn into lying to them.

Giuliani said former CIA Director John Brennan, along with former FBI Director James Comey, orchestrated the Deep State’s attempt to take down Trump, which he described as “as close to treason as you can get.”

“This is now an inexperienced prosecutor’s hypothesis … I think Brennan ran this damn thing,” Giuliani told host John Catsimatidis. “I particularly think Brennan ran the Papadopoulos-Carter Page part of it because that’s a very elaborate counter-intelligence plan — kind of a stupid one. Brennan is smart, but if he goes overboard, he makes a lot of mistakes, which is why he was in trouble all his career. So, that one I’m sure is orchestrated by CIA. And who the hell would’ve done it in the CIA but a screwball like Brennan?”

He added, “I think they have Comey. And I think, despite the fact that he got let off a couple of times — and I have no inside information — I believe that Attorney General Barr was saving it for the really good case, the one that comes pretty close to treason, because what they did after [Trump] was elected, I don’t say that it’s treason, but it’s as close to treason as you can get. They wanted to take out the lawfully elected President of the United States, and they wanted to do it by lying, submitting false affidavits, using phony witnesses — in other words, they wanted to do it by illegal means. What is overthrowing a government by illegal means? A coup … and it’s also treason.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent

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