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Russia Holds Space Agency Aide, Ex Journalist on High Treason Charge

FILE - Ivan Safronov looks at a photographer in his working place in Kommersant Publishing House in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 10, 2016.

An adviser to the chief of Russia's Roskosmos state space agency, Ivan Safronov Jr., has been detained on a charge of high treason.

Roskosmos's press service said that Safronov, who is also a former noted journalist, was detained on July 7 and added that the high treason charge he faces is not related to his position at the space agency.

The RIA news agency quoted the FSB Security Service as saying that Safronov worked for the foreign intelligence service of an unspecified NATO country and had been handing over classified military information.

The TASS news agency reported on July 7 that, because of the classified nature of some materials involved in the case, the court will hold proceedings behind closed doors.

Safronov, who started his current job in May, used to work for leading Russian newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.

He was fired from Kommersant last year after writing an article about the possible resignation of Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Russian parliament's upper chamber.

His dismissal led to a crisis at the paper after all of the journalists in Kommersant's politics department resigned in protest.

In June 2019, media reports surfaced saying that Kommersant might face administrative lawsuits for making state secrets public.

It was not clear which state secrets had been made public, but one of Safronov's articles about Russia's plans to deliver Su-35 military planes to Egypt was removed from the newspaper's website.

At the time, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo warned of possible sanctions against Egypt if Cairo were to purchase the planes from Moscow, The Bell website said at the time.

Kommersant Director General Vladimir Zhelonkin told the Open Media group on July 7 that there were no issues with authorities regarding Safronov's article, which was published in his newspaper last year. He added that the article in question did not contain any data that might be classified as a state secret.