Adviser to Roscosmos' chief arrested on suspicion of passing information to NATO intelligence

By Jonny Tickle

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

Formerly a journalist, Ivan Safronov was working at Roscosmos for two months. According to Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, Safronov is accused of working for a foreign intelligence agency, and passing secret information about military technology and the Russian defense industry to an unspecified NATO country. 

His arrest does not concern his current work with Roscosmos.

Earlier, media speculation linked his arrest to his previous reporting on the military-industrial complex, in particular, a story on an aircraft sale to Egypt, published in Russian newspaper Kommersant.

If charged and found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Born in Moscow in 1990, Safronov worked as a journalist for well-respected newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti. In May, he was appointed adviser to Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Roscosmos.

Speaking to news agency TASS, Rogozin explained that Safronov “did not have access to classified information,” but said that he has known the ex-journalist for several years, and never doubted his “high professionalism and personal decency.”

Safronov left Kommersant in 2019 following a scandal, after writing an article about the possible resignation of Valentina Matviyenko, the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. A spokesman for the Federation Council called the piece a rumor. Following complaints by the paper’s ownership, Safronov resigned from the politics department, along with more than 10 other journalists.

“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.


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