Fighting the remnants of the machine

Publish date: September 5, 2001

The pressconference arranged by Pasko's defence-team in connection with Bellona's visit to Vladivostok was met with considerable media interest. 40 journalists and seven TV-cameras were crammed into the room the organisers had chosen for the occasion.

Bellona in Vladivostok:

Aleksandr Tkachenko of the Russian Pen Club, who is participating in the trial as Pasko’s ‘public defender’, opened the pressconference, which was held at the National Press Institute in Vladivostok on September 4.

Referring to the trial against Pasko, Tkachenko said that the more the defenders got into the content of the case, the more they learned about the ‘kitchen of the witches’. The cases against Nikitin and Pasko are disgraceful for Russia, he said before explaining why Pasko’s defence-team had invited the press. – We have guests who have travelled from the other side of the earth in order to support us and I am sure that you want hear what they have to say.


Aleksandr Nikitin, representative of Bellona St. Petersburg, who after almost five years of prosecution was finally acquitted by the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court on September 13, 2000 in a case that had many similarities with Pasko’s case, said that he and the Bellona-team was glad to get this oppurtunity to demonstrate their solidarity with Pasko.

– Russia has indeed changed throughout the last decade. We have new laws and a new Constitution. However, the remnants of the machine that once imprisoned millions of people without trial are still alive. I was and Grigory is prosecuted for having violated their secret laws. And we are not the only ones, Nikitin said, with reference to the cases against Sutyagin, Soyfer and Schurov, who all are charged by the Russian Security Police with disclosure of state secrets. – In Russia any thinking indivudual who deals with science, journalism or collecting some material and analysing it, may risk the same.

Nikitin told the reporters that the Environmental Rights Centre, which was founded by Bellona and the St. Petersburg-based human rights group Citizens’ Watch in 1998, and where Nikitin is a board-member, had filed an application to the Russian Supreme Court about the illegal use of the secret decrees as normative acts in criminal cases. The initial hearings of the case is scheduled for September 12, 2001.

– The system where each department makes its own top-secret lists over state secrets must come to an end, he said.


Jon Gauslaa, attorney of Bellona Oslo, and member of the defence-team that worked successfully on Nikitin’s case, explained why Bellona has engaged itself in Pasko’s case.

– Our organisation has worked with nuclear waste-problems in Russia for more than a decade. We consider Grigory’s case as an important environmental rights case, and its outcome will also be important for the future development of the Russian society. It carries many of the same features as Aleksandr’s case, and while fighting his case we gained a lot of experience. Hopefully we will be able to share that experience with Grigory’s defence-team, he said.


Grigory Pasko said that he appreciated the support from Aleksandr Nikitin and Bellona. When being asked about his future plans, he said that it was a little difficult to make plans as long as the case against him was not terminated – I will however continue to work as a journalist and writer. Besides, on the 1st of September, I was registred as a student at the law faculty of the University of Vladivostok.

The journalist, who through his experiences with the FSB and the procuracy at least has gained a head start compared with his fellow law-students, was also asked of his present relationships with the military. – Well, I still get my salary and the only order I have to obey these days is “don’t show up at work”, he said with an ironical smile.


Journalist Grigory Pasko was arrested in November 1997 on charges of espionage on behalf of the Japanese TV-station ‘NHK’. He was acquitted of espionage in July 1999, but found guilty of abuse of office and freed under a general amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed the verdict, but so did the prosecution, insisting he was a spy. The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the verdict in November 2000, and sent the case back to Vladivostok for a re-trial. After a number of postponements the re-trial started on July 11, 2001.