September 9, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10197

Russian Journalists To Former Colleague Ivan Safronov, Sentenced To 22 Years In A Penal Colony: 'We Will Wait For You'

September 9, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10197

On September 5, 2022, Ivan Safronov, formerly a journalist for Vedemosti and Kommersant was sentenced by a Moscow court to 22 years imprisonment in a strict regime penal colony and another two years of restricted liberty tacked on to it. His trial was conducted behind closed doors and parts of the verdict were redacted. Safronov was accused of working for Czech intelligence and passing on information about arms sales to African countries. [1] Safronov had turned down a plea bargain that would have halved his sentence.

Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the sentence harsh but added: "I have no authority, I do not have the right to comment on the court's decision. I can but state that according to the law, a theoretical right to appeal exists. And according to the law, every convicted person has the right to ask for pardon. There is, again, a certain procedure prescribed by law. But a prerequisite for asking for a pardon is an admission of guilt. If I am not mistaken, Safronov never admitted his guilt, Peskov emphasized.[2]

Vladimir Putin commented on the verdict at the Eastern Economic Forum "This is a journalist, he received this sentence, I don’t know the details, but he was also an adviser to the head of Roskosmos [Russian Space Agency] and earned money not only by journalistic activities. He passed secret materials to foreign intelligence. Counterintelligence recorded everything. I do not presume to judge to what extent (the court decision) is justified in terms of sentence length.” [3]

Both the arrest and now the verdict have shocked Russia's journalistic community. They couldn't make sense of the anomaly that if Safronov was under investigation from 2012, how was he allowed on to the presidential press pool. wrote at the time of his arrest "Many of us worked with Ivan and know him as an exceptionally honest and decent person, for whom the concept of 'treason' is incompatible.[4]

The most moving protest appeared in a front page open letter to Safronov from the editorial board of  Kommersant. In the letter, Safronov's colleagues wrote that he has was both an exemplary journalist and a person, and that they had not heard a shred of proof that he was guilty of treason. They claimed that Safronov had conducted himself with dignity and would persevere through all the ordeals that lay ahead. His travails were the product of the times, and in other circumstances, he would never have been charged in the first place. They promised to wait for him.

The Kommersant open letter to Safronov follows below:[5]

Ivan Safronov (Source:

"Hello Vanya.

Your articles made the front page of Kommersant many times. Since July 7, 2020, materials about you have often been published here. And now we're using the front page to speak directly to you.

"Here, working at Kommersant, are people who remember how you first got into journalism. How you learned to write articles. How you began to find exclusives and receive your countless awards for the best material in the issue. And how you became the best in your subject. They remember how many times “Kommersant” appeared all over the news thanks to you. How you bested all the competitors.

"They remember how and why you had to leave.

"There are people in Kommersant who were lucky to have worked with you. Who remember that the most depressing gray day became brighter when you went to the editorial office. They remember how you joked and laughed, how you told anecdotes and proposed toasts. How firmly you shook hands. They remember that you never tooted your own horn. They remember that you were always ready to help - both at work and in life.

"And every day they remember that they could not help you.

"And in Kommersant there are people who have never communicated with you. Who came to the editorial office in the last three years and know you only through open sources (pardon this sad joke). They know you from the stories of colleagues, from articles about you.

"And [they know you] by your articles. After all, they very often drop out in a search when you need to collect backing or study the issue's history.

"Today we all want to tell you - Vanya, you are a real journalist. You are a great professional. You are a very good person.

"We haven't heard any public evidence of your guilt. And we are sure: in another time, in another situation, you would have been exonerated. Yes, and things like this, perhaps, would not have happened from the very outset.

"But times are not chosen. But you can choose what to be in these times. And you made your choice. These two years you have been a model of decent behavior. You didn't surrender and you won't surrender now. We know that you will survive all the ordeals. We love you, we believe in you.

"We are waiting for you."


[Signed] The Kommersant editorial board


[1], September 5, 2022.

[2], September 9, 2022.

[3], September 7, 2022.

[4], July 7, 2020.

[5], September 6, 2022.

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