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‘A mockery of the law and common sense’ Meduza translates Ivan Safronov’s remarks from the first day of his closed-door treason trial

Source: Meduza

On Monday, April 4, the Moscow City Court began to review the case of Ivan Safronov on its merits. The former defense reporter and Roscosmos communications advisor stands accused of treason; therefore, his trial is taking place behind closed doors. Meduza has translated the text of the appeal Ivan Safronov made to the court on the first day of the proceedings. Our newsroom received a copy of these remarks from human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who was involved in Safronov’s defense. 

My sentiments regarding the indictment 

I hereby declare that I do not plead guilty to the charge against me of committing two crimes under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code — “high treason in the form of espionage.”

I wish to express my sentiments regarding the indictment. 


I was charged with a crime not provided for in the Russian Criminal Code. 

In the description of Russian Criminal Code Article 275, there is no mention of “collecting for the purpose of transferral and transferring to a representative of a foreign state and a foreign organization information constituting a state secret.” 

According to the requirements of criminal law and criminal procedure law, bringing charges based on a crime not provided for in the Russian Criminal Code is inadmissible.


I did not commit the crimes for which I was charged. 

The actions I am accused of consist solely of my professional, journalistic activities and have nothing to do with the commission of a crime. As part of my professional activities, I did in fact receive information from open sources related to the subject of my profession — military journalism. 

Possessing the relevant professional skills, being able to analyze the information received and draw conclusions from it, I prepared journalistic reports, which did not contain a single letter or number that I would have [had to] obtain secretly, much less illegally. 

In addition, the case lacks any information from which it would be possible to understand from whom, when, under what circumstances, and what information constituting a state secret I allegedly “collected.” In a number of the procedural documents by the preliminary investigation body, it is directly stated that these circumstances were not established by the investigation. 

This is not only illegal, it’s flat-out wild — to accuse me of an especially grave crime, high treason in the form of espionage, and, at the same time, not explain wherein lies this treason and espionage. 

During the preliminary investigation, I told investigator A. S. [Alexander] Chaban dozens of times that I can easily show the open sources from which I gathered the data I used when writing journalistic reports. 

I asked [him] to grant me a few hours and a computer in order to prove my innocence: I could have shown the investigator open sources that contained all of the information used in my work. 

I’m in prison, I don’t have a computer there. [My] lawyers were unable to visit me in the remand prison more than once a month. This is the working environment of the facility. Not only in the isolation ward, but even in the investigator’s office where we saw each other periodically, my lawyers were not allowed in with a laptop or smartphone, or even a clean sheet of paper and law codes! 

How, under such conditions, was I supposed to prove my innocence, other than by asking the investigator to provide me with Internet access?

The investigator refused to satisfy my petitions and my defense lawyers’ petitions, cynically stating that “granting I. I. Safronov access to the Internet is beyond the scope of the investigator’s authority.” 

It really is the utmost cynicism, if not a crime against justice, to accuse a person of committing an especially grave crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and deprive him of the opportunity to defend himself. 


In addition, I never received access to information constituting a state secret. No one has ever familiarized me with the normative acts defining the subject-matter of state secrets.

I did not know and could not have known that the information I used as part of my journalistic activities and obtained from open sources allegedly referred to information that constitutes a state secret. 

And I do not know it to this day. But I know for sure that there is no crime without guilt. Therefore, I am absolutely confident that I cannot be convicted for disseminating information that I collected legally and openly as a journalist. Information that was in the public domain. I not only did not know, but could not even guess the information relevant to the subject-matter of “state secrets.” 


I’ll say more. I am accused of the fact that information I disseminated constitutes a state secret. 

I ask the question — who said that this information is actually classified [or] secret? In response, I’m told that this is stated in classified provisions, decrees, and instructions. But I don’t know these classified decrees and instructions, just as any person on the street doesn’t know about them! Show me these decrees and instructions, I’m not obliged to take the charge at face value; I can’t defend myself against a charge I don’t understand! 

Neither I, nor my lawyers, have access to this “classified” regulatory framework. This regulatory framework is missing from the case materials. It is also not available in the public domain. It is not named in the decision to institute proceedings against me and there is not even a description of it in the indictment. 

My defense lawyers have repeatedly asked for clarification: in which specific regulatory framework is it enshrined that the information I allegedly disseminated is a state secret? [They’ve repeatedly asked] to be familiarized with its contents. To this, the investigator replied that the lawyers have no right to access classified acts and documents. 

This is a complete mockery of the law and common sense!  

Explain to me — how can one defend himself against a charge that is contingent upon the provisions of laws that are hidden from the accused and his defense?


I absolutely do not understand the indictment. 

I asked the investigator to explain it to me many times, but [he] consistently refused. I spoke about this dozens of times and now I will declare it to the court — I am in no position to defend myself against a charge that not only I do not understand, but one that I believe the prosecution itself does not understand either. 

Therefore, I will be forced to repeat what I told the investigator dozens of times:

  • The charge brought against me does not contain a description of the actions imputed to me. The charge completely lacks any indication of what specific information constituting a state secret I allegedly transmitted to a representative of a foreign state and a foreign organization. There is also no such description in the indictment. I cannot defend myself against an accusation that has not been leveled. 
  • The charge against me contains no indication of from whom, when, under what circumstances, and what information constituting a state secret I allegedly collected. The indictment also lacks any such description. I am in no position to refute events I do not know about. 
  • I do not understand the charge brought against me for allegedly receiving “illegal” and “criminal” income from “criminal activity.” Let them explain to me what money this is referring to, let them tell me where, when, and for what I received it — and then I will gladly prove that this money has nothing to do with any illegal or criminal activity! 
  • I am accused of allegedly — as part of “espionage missions received from *****” — “having collected information constituting a state secret of interest to NATO.” I have already said that the charge does not say what this “information” is, but I also do not understand when I allegedly collected this information. This information is not [contained] in the decision to prosecute or in the indictment. 

Put yourself in my place: they tell you that you committed a crime, but they don’t tell you which crime exactly or when [you committed it]. How would you defend yourself against this absurdity?


Dozens of witnesses with access to state secrets were interrogated as part of the case, including government officials from the top of the state hierarchy. Not one of the people interrogated admitted to having given me information that constitutes a state secret. 

The case materials include hundreds of hours of my conversations, secretly “wiretapped” over several years, including [conversations] with officials at the highest level. None of these “wiretaps” contain even a hint that I obtained information constituting a state secret.

My apartment was bugged for several years, I was literally tailed for several years. And, again, not the slightest trace of my “espionage activity” has been established. 

The most surprising thing is that the prosecution admits all of this! It is directly stated in the indictment: the investigation failed to find out where I obtained the data allegedly constituting a “state secret.” So, I am telling you where I got all this from — from the Internet, from official publications by government officials, from newspaper articles, from public analytics by my colleagues!

By law, my defense lawyers and I have the right to tell the investigator about the individuals to be subpoenaed for questioning and to substantiate the defense’s positions. And the investigator is obliged to add these persons to the indictment’s list of witnesses. 

We did this. We asked to include 29 witnesses for the defense on the list of persons to be subpoenaed, most of whom had already been interrogated by an investigator. In addition, we asked to subpoena more than ten experts and specialists who were involved in the investigation of the case. 

The Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation does not contain provisions allowing an investigator to refuse such a request from the defense. However, the investigator refused our request. The list of witnesses does not include any of the more than 40 people named by the defense. Not a single one! 

This is just unthinkable. I am being denied the right to defend myself. I am essentially being denied the right to present a defense!

And I know what this is about. 

On the one hand, all of the individuals I named will testify to the fact that I did not commit a crime. On the other hand, most of them will have to explain their actions. The case contains dozens of hours of audio recordings of conversations [with] “witnesses” from among the highest officials in the state hierarchy. And what many of them talked about often boiled down to impartial assessments of the actions and personal qualities of Russia’s high-ranking figures. 

It is one thing to bring charges devoid of elementary legal or moral grounds against a journalist. Making claims against high-ranking people is quite another. 

But, at the same time, the fact remains [that] I did not use a single word in my journalistic reports, not a single phrase carelessly or boastfully spoken by these people concerning their opinion about the personality or actions of any high-ranking dignitary, if I felt that these words could really harm my country, erode someone’s authority, [or] demonstrate weakness. And these are not empty words — there isn’t a single letter in the charge that indicates otherwise.

To my regret, in the preliminary hearing, the court did not consider the refusal to include the witnesses for the defense on the list in the indictment a significant violation of the law. To say that this disappoints me would be an understatement. 

Can I really not defend myself against this charge in court [by] presenting evidence of my innocence? Why then do we need a court at all? The court suggested that the defense bring witnesses to the trial on their own. Forgive me, but I am in prison and I cannot do this. And I cannot imagine how my lawyers could do this, taking into account the official position of a number of the witnesses. I think that my defense lawyers themselves will be immediately whisked off somewhere upon their first attempt to meet with some of the witnesses and experts. 


There have been monstrous violations of my right to present a defense in this case.

This is detailed in my lawyers’ petitions. We will insist on the recognition of this fact. There can be no sentence where the accused is forbidden to defend himself. 

Right now, I want to give just one example. On four occasions, [while] still at the stage of the preliminary investigation, my defense lawyers appealed to the court over actions and decisions by the investigator that violated my constitutional right to defense. The complaints were filed beginning on September 17, 2021. According to the rules of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, such complaints must be reviewed within five days of the date of their receipt by the court. In fact, the court has yet to adopt a ruling on any of these complaints that has entered into legal force. Far from five days have passed — it’s been more than half a year, but none of the complaints filed with the court have been fully reviewed. And now the proceedings on the complaints will be terminated due to my case going to trial. 

In addition, my defense lawyers and I are not familiar with the case materials. [Our] familiarization with the case was unlawfully terminated by the investigator, as detailed in my lawyers’ petitions. 

* * *

I don’t know whether my words and my plea will impress the court. But I have no other [option] but to ask the court to listen to my words: I did not commit any crime. For a year and nine months I have been compelled to say that I am guilty of high treason. I repeat and I will repeat — I am not guilty. 

I will ask the court for assistance in restoring my violated right to defense. This, in my opinion, should mean the following: 

  • An explanation by the prosecution of the charge allegedly “brought against” me. I am in no position to defend myself against what is formulated in the decision to institute proceedings against me. 
  • Familiarizing me with the regulatory framework whose provisions I am accused of violating. I am in no position to refute the fact that I did not break laws I do not know exist and that are not shown to me.
  • Granting me the opportunity to access the Internet to search [for] and subsequently present the court with evidence that all of the information I collected and disseminated was in the public domain and, accordingly, that there is no evidence of the crime of high treason in the form of espionage in my actions. I have the right to refute the false arguments behind the far-fetched accusation that I am a state offender. 
  • Ensuring that subpoenas are issued to all of the defense witnesses, as well as all of the experts and specialists I asked the investigator to include on the corresponding list in the indictment. I have the right to present evidence of my innocence.
  • Granting me the opportunity for additional, unhindered study of the case materials. I have the right to know what, according to the investigation, affirms my guilt.  
Read more about Ivan Safronov’s case

‘Confess and you can call your mom’ A year later, the details of Russia’s treason charges against journalist Ivan Safronov remain largely unknown

Read more about Ivan Safronov’s case

‘Confess and you can call your mom’ A year later, the details of Russia’s treason charges against journalist Ivan Safronov remain largely unknown

Translation by Eilish Hart

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