A public relations adviser to the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos has been detained on suspicion of spying for a NATO member state, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on Tuesday.
Ivan Safronov, a former journalist at the prominent Russian newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti, had become the information policy adviser to Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin just two months ago, the report said.
Safronov is alleged to have gathered confidential Russian military information upon the request of a NATO member state, Interfax reported, citing Russia's Federal Security Service.
The case "could be connected with his previous journalism work and publications about the military," the report said. Roscosmos said the case was not related to Safronov's position at the space agency, according to the report.
Safronov faces a charge of treason, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Russia's justice system does not employ a death penalty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said that according to the information presented to the Kremlin, Safronov was not detained for journalistic activity.
"A talented journalist"
Safronov, previously accredited in the prestigious Kremlin pool of reporters, was "really a talented journalist," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by Interfax.
Safronov was forced to leave the Kommersant newspaper last year after authoring an article that claimed the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, would soon leave her post for a sort of pre-retirement job as the head of Russia's pension fund.
Eleven other journalists left the newspaper at that time as a protest in solidarity with Safronov and editor Maxim Ivanov, who had also been dismissed. Matviyenko remains the upper house's speaker.