Russia’s journalists under increasing pressure from the secret services

Ivan Safronov, an advisor to the head of the Russian State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS, stands in a defendant's cage prior to a hearing at the Lefortovsky district court in Moscow, Russia. Former journalist Ivan Safronov was detained in Moscow on suspicion of treason by the Federal Security Service (FSB) agents. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

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Russia’s intelligence services have ‘stepped up’ their war on free media, carrying out a series of operations designed to intimidate journalists in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s controversial referendum victory last week.

In the space of just a few days, a journalist in Russia’s north-west on Monday was found guilty of “justifying terrorism” in her column and fined £5,000, escaping a prison sentence.

On Wednesday, police raided homes of at least five opposition activists and one independent newsroom.

The FSB has not produced any specific evidence to back up their accusations that Mr Safronov has been spying for the Czech intelligence, but his defence attorney says that the reporter has been under surveillance for many months.

In an unprecedented case for post-Soviet Russia, prominent defence reporter Ivan Safronov was seized outside his home on Tuesday morning by secret service agents and arrested on suspicion of treason.

Citing the secret nature of the case, the investigators have not published any evidence to back up their claims but the reporter faces 20 years in prison.

Last week’s overwhelming approval of constitutional amendments allowing Vladimir Putin to stay in office at least until 2036 was hailed by the Kremlin as a “triumph.”

But results at the polling stations that were monitored by independent observers indicated something resembling a split vote.

That was an apparent cue for Russia’s FSB secret service to take action.

Read more via The Sunday Telegraph

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