Jailed Russian Ex-Journalist Safronov Isolated With Suspected Coronavirus

Ivan Safronov, a former journalist arrested on treason charges, has been isolated in jail with suspected coronavirus, prison watchdog representatives told Interfax on Monday.

Safronov was arrested this month shortly after leaving his decade-long journalism career to become a media adviser to Russia’s space chief. He was placed in pre-trial detention in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison and now faces up to 20 years in prison in a closed trial.

«Safronov has been isolated in a separate cell at Lefortovo due to suspected coronavirus,» Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) member Eva Merkacheva told Interfax.

The head of the Moscow chapter of the PMC told Interfax that Safronov showed one symptom of the illness and that “he feels fine” overall.

Safronov’s case has sparked outcry among journalists, who link his arrest to his past reporting on Russian defense matters.

Since the start of the pandemic rights groups have called on Russian officials to give amnesty to prisoners, warning that the country’s crowded, poorly ventilated prisons have high potential for becoming coronavirus hotspots.

Russian Ex-Journalist Charged With Treason Rejects Deal Requiring Him to Reveal Sources

Ivan Safronov, a journalist-turned-space adviser arrested on treason charges, has turned down a plea deal that would have required him to disclose his journalistic sources, his lawyer told Interfax on Tuesday.

Safronov, who was a well-respected reporter for 10 years before becoming media adviser to the head of Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos, was charged with treason this month in a case his supporters say lacks evidence. As a journalist, he wrote stories about Russia’s defense and space sectors.

Investigators “casually” told Safronov that a plea bargain in which he shares his sources would be his “best way out,” his lawyer Ivan Pavlov told Interfax.

Safronov «did not even discuss it,» Interfax cited Pavlov as saying.

Pavlov told the MBKh Media news website that the plea deal offer was a “Freudian slip” by investigators.

“The investigation categorically denies any connection between the charges and Ivan’s journalistic activities, but here it turns out that the sources of his information are of interest,” he said.

Safronov faces up to 20 years in prison on the state treason charges. His supporters claim that the charges were a response to his reporting, which ruffled feathers among the ruling elite.

Earlier on Tuesday, a prison watchdog said Safronov had been placed in an isolated cell after showing potential coronavirus symptoms.

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