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Ivan Safronov’s reporting Russian federal agents have filed treason charges against a journalist who wrote extensively on the space and defense industries. Here are excerpts from some of his most important stories.

Source: Meduza
Anatoly Zhdanov / Kommersant

On the morning of July 7, federal agents arrested Ivan Safronov, a longtime journalist who recently took a job as a communications adviser to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. Safronov is being charged with treason and faces up to 20 years in prison. Roscosmos says the case is unrelated to Safronov’s work with the state corporation, where he apparently had no access to classified information. The newsroom at Kommersant, the business newspaper that employed Safronov for nearly a decade, quickly published an editorial in support of its former correspondent, and numerous Russian journalists have publicly denounced the treason allegations. Meduza reviews some of Ivan Safronov’s most important stories during his 10 years as a reporter.

In his work at Kommersant and Vedomosti, Ivan Safronov focused first and foremost on Russia’s Army and space industry: international weapons sales, experimental weapons, personnel appointments, investigations of major accidents in the space and military-industrial complexes, military exercises and operations, and corruption and spy scandals in Russia’s defense industry. 

Here are some of his most memorable reports:

Medals awarded secretly to senior state officials

Kommersant has learned that President Vladimir Putin secretly conferred the title of Hero of Russia to his first deputy chief of staff, Sergey Kiriyenko, and Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov. [...] Several officials at the ‘Rosatom’ state corporation also received distinguished awards.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

“Vladimir Putin awarded the title of Hero of Russia to ‘Rostec’ state corporation CEO Sergey Chemezov, Vedomosti learned from several senior executives in the defense industry and confirmed with a senior Kremlin official. The corresponding executive decree has not been published on the Kremlin’s website, but Vedomosti’s sources say it was signed several weeks ago.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

Russian soldiers killed in Syria

“A military-diplomatic source told Vedomosti that an indecent occurred on Wednesday, September 4, around 10 p.m. local time in the area of Dzhuryn (in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone) that resulted in the deaths of three officers of Russia’s Armed Forces.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

A supposed American spy in the Kremlin

“According to a source with ties to the intelligence community, [Oleg] Smolenkov previously worked at Russia’s embassy in the United States when the ambassador was Yuri Ushakov, who now serves as a foreign policy adviser to the president. [Smolenkov] then worked in the government cabinet and spent at least the past five years as a senior adviser in Ushakov’s office. In this most recent position, he had access to extremely sensitive data, including information from [Russia’s] intelligence community, says Vedomosti’s source.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko’s possible resignation

Kommersant has learned that a series of major personnel changes could take place in the coming months. Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who has represented St. Petersburg in the parliament’s upper house since 2011, might step down. Her likeliest successor is reportedly Foreign Intelligence Service head Sergey Naryshkin. According to Kommersant’s sources, Ms. Matviyenko could take over an agency after restructuring its status, such as Russia’s Pension Fund.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

Su-35 fighter jets sold to Egypt

Kommersant has learned that Russia signed a contract with Egypt to supply several dozen Su-35 heavy multi-functional fighter jets. [...] The contract, valued at $2 billion, confirms Egypt’s status as one of the world’s biggest clients of Russian arms.”

Read an archived copy of the article (in Russian) here. Kommersant quickly deleted the story. Allegations later surfaced that the newspaper allegedly disclosed state secrets.

Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin files defamation lawsuits against multiple online news outlets

Kommersant has learned that Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin has filed police reports alleging defamation, leading to a criminal investigation. The case is a response to publications by several Internet publications ‘expressing a negative assessment’ of Mr. Rogozin’s actions as head of the state corporation.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

The future headquarters of Roscosmos’s National Space Center will be in the shape of a booster rocket

Kommersant has learned that Roscosmos allocated 25 billion rubles [today about $350.8 million] of its own budget to create a headquarters in Moscow for its National Space Center. The state corporation's new head office will be built from scratch on the grounds of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center in the Fili neighborhood. The building will have 250,000 square meters [2.7 million square feet] and the state corporation’s leadership wants it to look like a booster rocket.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

A launch-vehicle accident with an international space crew (everyone survived)

“On Thursday, there was a crash of the ‘Soyuz-FG’ launch vehicle, which was supposed to send the ‘Soyuz MS-10’ manned spacecraft with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hiag to the International Space Station. Casualties were avoided thanks to the emergency rescue system, which deployed on time and safely landed the crew. According to data obtained by Kommersant, the accident was caused by the non-separation of one of the Soyuz-FG’s four first-stage side boosters.” 

Read the article (in Russian) here.

How U.S. sanctions caused problems for Russia’s arms exports

Kommersant has learned that restrictive measures prepared by the United States as part of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act have affected the timetable for supplying Su-35 fighter jets to Indonesia. Jakarta expected the first of 11 aircraft in October, but the U.S. has not provided guarantees to Indonesia that it won’t impose sanctions.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

The International Space Station’s air leak

“American astronauts could have deliberately drilled a hole in the ‘Soyuz MS-09’ spacecraft in order to return one of their sick colleagues to Earth as soon as possible. Kommersant has learned that the Roscosmos special commission investigating the spacecraft’s depressurization is reviewing this theory as a priority. Russian experts have already asked NASA for the astronauts’ bodycam footage and their current medical data.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

The development of new missiles in China

“China is developing new types of missiles and testing launch vehicles using hypersonic waveriders and railguns (electromagnetic guns). They will help the Army of the People's Republic of China make a quantum leap and allow the country to overtake the U.S. and Russia in armaments sometime in the 2030s.”

Read the article (in Russian) here.

Articles selected by Tatyana Lysova and Farida Rustamova

Translations by Kevin Rothrock

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