On 7 July a bland statement was issued by Russian counter-intelligence, the FSB, to the effect that counsellor to the general director of the state enterprise “Roskosmos”, Ivan Ivanovich Safronov, had been arrested under article 275 for passing on state secrets to “one of the secret services of NATO.”
What may be considered a state secret in a normal country is not what is considered a state secret in today’s Russia. The use of article 275 in what appears to have been an unjustified attempt to stifle in depth coverage of foreign, defence and intelligence issues in the Russian media will obviously have a stiflying effect on free speech.
It is an issue that was taken up with a matter of urgency by the only “liberal” daily newspaper now surviving in Moscow, Novaya gazeta. The once liberal financial newspaper Vedomosti, for which Safronov once worked, under new ownership immediately began censoring real news that contradicted the Kremlin view, as a result of which the editor and leading journalists resigned from the staff.
The puzzle about Safronov is one of the timing. Someone was obviously protecting him while others were gunning for him. Even while they built a case against him, he had been vetted innumerable times as a journalist and then for the job at Roskosmos (Russia’s NASA), and then the FSB got clearance to arrest him only after he finally took up his new position.
The title of Novaya gazeta‘s headline on 7 July, repeating the title of an article Safronov had published in Vedomosti in 2019, says it all: “Even without access to secrets one can become a victim of the special services.”
We have been warned.
Иван Сафронов. «Даже не имеющие допуска к секретам могут стать жертвами спецслужб»