MOSCOW / PRAGUE According to former investigative journalist Grigorie Paska, the interests of several Russian institutions are reflected in the case of his colleague Ivan Safronov, whom the Russian authorities suspect of spying for Czech intelligence. Safronov is historically the second journalist accused in Russia of treason, Pasko was the first twenty years ago.
Forty-eight-year-old Grigory Pasko was also a second-degree naval captain due to his journalistic position. He studied military journalism and “served” in Vladivostok as the editor of the newspaper Vojevaja Vachta (Battle Guard).
Glasnost, the relaxation of rules for the Soviet media initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s, also found its way into the military press, and some of the editors thus openly criticized the conditions in the army itself.
Pasko dealt with corruption and ecology, topics related at that time to the decommissioning and sale of military equipment. He collaborated with Japanese journalists, who, due to the proximity of the ports of the Pacific Fleet, were very interested in matters related to the destruction of weapons, especially nuclear submarines.
He was detained by the secret services when he tried to fly to Japan on November 23, 1997 with documents on the disposal of nuclear waste from decommissioned submarines. At that time, his name was filled by the world media, he spent two years in custody, the courts handed down several verdicts, the last and strictest of which was – four years in prison for treason in the form of espionage.
Amnesty International was then described by Paska as a political prisoner. He eventually spent half a year behind bars and was released due to international pressure. Today he organizes investigative journalism courses.
Pasko was historically the first journalist to stand in court on suspicion of treason. His case is in some respects reminiscent of the case of Ivan Safronov, a former prominent journalist and now adviser to the head of the Roscosmos space agency.
He also faces charges of treason due to activities from the time of his journalistic practice due to alleged espionage for the Czech secret service. He was to hand over the documents to a Czech intelligence service, which allegedly provided them to the Americans. He and his lawyers deny something similar, he is currently in Lefortovo remand in Moscow. Pasko gave an interview on the current case of the Lidovky.cz server.
Lidovky.cz: Did you know Ivan Safronov?
Not exactly him, but according to the articles I knew about his father, his name was also Ivan Safronov. He was one of the few people who wrote on the very sensitive topic of Russia’s military cooperation with other countries such as arms supplies. That is, the S-300 anti-aircraft systems, Su-35 aircraft and other weapons that went abroad. It is a topic that not everyone can write because reliable and good resources are needed. Unfortunately, Ivan Safronov Sr. turned out badly. (He fell out of the window of his house in March 2007, the investigation identified suicide as the most probable cause. But people who knew him well do not believe it – ed. Note.)
Lidovky.cz: The case of Ivan Safronov is still widely covered by the Russian media, why such interest?
At least three problems that various institutions are solving here have met here. First of all, the Federal Security Service (FSB) would like to remind you that the section on treason No. 275 in the amended version from 2012 works not only against scientists, but also against journalists. After me, Safronov is the second journalist accused of treason, and the message is that his colleagues should be careful not to end up the same when reporting on military issues.
In addition, there is interest in the External Intelligence Service (SVR). Their car was involved in the arrest, their people were expert, and we must not forget that Safronov wrote about their director Sergei Naryshkin a year ago. And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has its own here, which in this way expresses its current aversion to the Czech Republic. He emphasizes that Safronov did not interrogate only for the USA, but the Czech secret service was the mediator. In short, there was a good opportunity to punish the Czechia by joining the espionage scandal for all recent things. And even though it’s all nonsense, because when you already ask for some information for the secret service, it’s usually done directly.
Lidovky.cz: Isn’t the mosaic a little too much?
There may be other interests in this, for example, someone wants to get rid of the post of Roskosmos boss Dmitri Rogozin.
Lidovky.cz: Do you think that Safronov really broke a law and the prosecution has something to catch?
He is defended by Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer who defended me and we have known each other for twenty years. I can already read half of his word what he thinks. When he talked on Wednesday about the evidence in the case, I understood that there was none. It is possible to accuse everyone today of writing an email to someone. This letter can also be subject to expertise, and the experts who deal with it are only with SVR or FSB. We have no other here for cases of high treason. And these experts will simply confirm that the letter contains a state secret when it needs to be confirmed. Article 275 is so written that, according to him, it is very easy to prove guilt and punish the accused.
Lidovky.cz: How do you think this case can end?
If there is very strong pressure from the professional journalistic community, then they may even release him without the case going to court. Or he can get four years in court, not twelve. But nothing can be predicted here, because it is not a case of justice, but a political matter.