The Kremlin took revenge on Ivan Safronov for freedom – DW – 09/06/2022

Ivan Safronov during his sentencing, September 5, 2022
Ivan Safronov during his sentencing, September 5, 2022Photo: MOSCOW CITY COURT/REUTERS

Despite the European Union’s call to release Ivan Safronov, a former Kommersant and Vedomosti journalist, and drop all charges against him as far-fetched, the Moscow City Court on August 5 sentenced Safronov to 22 years in a strict regime colonya fine of 500 thousand rubles and a virtual ban on journalism for another two years after his release.

Such sentences in Russia – even in cases of treason – are practically not passed. Why is independent journalism considered by the Russian authorities to be even more of a crime than, for example, brutal murders?

Why such a monstrous period?

The case of Ivan Safronov was sucked out of thin air by the Russian special services, and any independent court would have found him innocent. This is the collective opinion of all experts who are familiar with the circumstances of this wild spectacle, which had nothing to do with justice. In order to divulge a state secret, one must first gain access to it, and the last in relation to Safronov investigation has not been able to convincingly prove.

Ivan Preobrazhensky
Ivan PreobrazhenskyPhoto: Peter Steinmetz/DW

However, the Russian courts have not been independent for a long time and, contrary to the country’s constitution, are completely obedient to calls from the administration of Vladimir Putin or other high offices. Like puppets in a theatre, they churn out what was written for them in the Investigative Committee or FSB sentences. This happened in the case of Ivan Safronov.

But still, the question remains not fully clarified why the special services and the Kremlin, without whose command this high-profile case could not have come to such a verdict, settled on such a monstrous figure. These 22 years of imprisonment are almost equivalent to a life lived.

Based on personal revenge

Why did some puppeteer, who dictated this sentence to the judge, insist on such an absurdly long term, which is difficult to imagine in modern – even Russian – judicial practice? Say, the brightest leader of the Russian opposition Alexey Navalny was also convicted for nothing, but received 9 years in prison. For murder with extreme cruelty, Russian courts easily give 12.5 years.

And here is a criminal case cobbled together on the knee, which has become the fruit of many years of surveillance, wiretapping and hacking of all personal gadgets. It seems logical to bashfully give a moderate term, since the system, which has forgotten how to back up, simply cannot let go completely. But someone personally insisted.

And it doesn’t matter if it was Vladimir Putin personally, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin, the speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, Russian generals, dissatisfied with Safronov’s highly professional articles on military topics, or, finally, the mysterious FSB men who are tired of following the journalist. It is important that this was clearly done out of personal revenge. This is not the inertia of the repressive machine, which, without external interference, gives, though to everyone indiscriminately, but much shorter terms.

Measured a lot

Dozens of commentators unanimously say that 22 years is clearly the period during which Putin and the Putinists expect not to lose power. Given the failed attack on Ukraine, about the danger and preparation of which Safronov, as a brilliant analyst, would certainly have written long before February 24, if you were freeit also seems to me that the Kremlin’s gerontocrats have clearly intended for themselves a too cloudless political future and a too calm life.

It is not at all a fact that the future of Russia without Putin is cloudless, and it will not necessarily turn out to be democratic and liberal, but it will certainly come earlier than the term of imprisonment that was issued to Safronov.

Moreover, in his person, this immoral political regime, which kills women and children in peaceful Ukrainian cities, sentenced not only the journalist himself, or even independent journalism, which is now practically destroyed in Russia, to a 22-year prison term. In the person of Safronov, who refused to slander his acquaintances and confess that he did not commit, the verdict was passed on the very concept of decency.

Too violent

The people who found Safronov guilty and sentenced him believe that they avoided weakness – the main, in their opinion, shortcoming of the first and last president of the USSR who died a few days ago Mikhail Gorbachev. But at the same time, the Russian ruling class for some reason believes that in the event of the fall of the regime, they will deal with it as gently as they did in the early 90s with the Soviet nomenklatura.

They simply forget that the force of action is equal to the force of reaction. And the closer their regime is in its cruelty, for example, to the rule of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the closer they themselves are to an end as sad as that of Gaddafi.

After all, they themselves, having canceled even the appearance of morality, are educating equally uncompromising avengers – both inside Russia and abroad. Putinism is unlikely to have as long a period of transition as Stalinism from repression to relative vegetarianism, ending with Gorbachev’s perestroika.

Author: Ivan Preobrazhensky, candidate of political sciences, expert on Central and Eastern Europe, columnist for a number of media. Writer of a weekly column for DW. Ivan Preobrazhensky on Facebook: Ivan Preobrazhensky

The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editors and Deutsche Welle in general.

See also:

The most severe sentence to “spy” Safronov

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