Admiral with odd testimony

Publish date: November 5, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

Last week the Pacific Fleet interrogated the first deputy commander of the Russian Navy and former head of the Pacific Fleet, admiral Zakharenko. His testimony did not impress Pasko's defence.

As previously reported on Bellona Web, the phonetic experts have caused almost a month’s delay in the proceedings of the Pasko case. It was officially announced today that the trial first will resume on November 29. The delay of the experts is, however, not the only event that has disturbed the defence-team lately.

A man with bad memory
The first deputy commander of the Russian Navy and former head of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Zakharenko was flown in from Moscow to testify on October 30. Zakharenko has apparently been summoned to the Court on the order of the chairman of the Pacific Fleet Court, General Volkov. The admiral’s testimony turned out to be rather odd.

In 1997 the admiral issued various documents so that Pasko could travel to Japan in order to make research on an article related to the graves of Russian sailors on Japanese soil. The admiral did not remember much about these documents.

His bad memory did however, not prevent him from giving his views regarding the alleged presence of state secrets in the materials that Pasko is charged with.

‘Secret’ notes
Admiral Zakharenko focused particularly on one episode in the indictment. Pasko attended a meeting of the Military Council of the Pacific Fleet in September 1997 as correspondent for "Boyevaya Vaktha". He took some notes at the meeting for the possible use in a later article. In November 1997 the FSB searched Pasko’s flat and confiscated his notes.

The FSB then made up charges against Pasko and accused him with having kept the notes at home and subsequently transferred them to Japan and thus, disclosed state secrets.

How he could have transferred the very same notes that he according to the charges still kept at home, is not explained in the indictment. Thus, the FSB is not even close to prove that the notes were transferred or that this was Pasko’s intention, which the Pacific Fleet Court actually acknowledged at the first trial against Pasko in 1999.

Beyond the experts
Neither the allegation that the notes contain state secrets is anywhere near being proven. The state secret experts claim that the notes reveal secret information about "the real names of military units" and "the activity of radio-electronic warfare units during exercises", but could not to substantiate this allegation when the Court interrogated them in September.

It then became clear that their conclusion is based on decree 055:96, which have been neither registered nor officially published and thus, can not be used as the basis for filing criminal charges. Besides, the notes are completely incomprehensible for any other persons than the one who made them, and can as such hardly reveal any information at all.

Nevertheless, the admiral went way beyond the conclusion of the experts and claimed that the notes were bubbling over with state secrets. They did not only reveal the secret plans of the commanders of the Pacific Fleet regarding the strategic use of its forces, but also how the commanders planned to carry out the plans of the supreme Commander-in-chief (the Russian President). Zakharenko also tried to convince the Court that it had been necessary for the Fleet to change its battle plans because of Pasko’s notes.

Lying all the time
Neither Pasko’s attorney Anatoly Pyshkin nor his public defender, Aleksandr Tkatcheno were impressed by the admiral’s testimony.

– The admiral gave a very sad impression, said Pyshkin. He was not able to answer any of our questions concretely. His answers were full of slogans regarding the glorious tasks of the Navy, and did only contain assumptions and guessings and no substantial facts.

Tkatchenko characterisation was more merciless. – When I saw the admiral I had to ask myself why a generation of false patriots, whose heads are crammed with empty phrases about the defence of the motherland, have flourished in our country. He was lying all the time, probably because he was afraid of loosing his spot in the sun, said the former Locomotive Moscow forward, turned poet and human rights advocate.

Despite of the harsh judgments passed on him, Zakharenko seemed to be pleased with his effort. When leaving the courtroom the admiral was humming ‘Katyusha’ – a kind of Russian answer to "the Battle Hymn of the Republic"…

Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997 on charges of espionage on behalf of the Japanese TV-channel NHK. He was acquitted in July 1999, but convicted of ‘abuse of official authority’ and freed under an amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed, but so did the prosecution, insisting he was a spy. On November 21, 2000 the Russian Military Supreme Court sent the case back for a re-trial at the Pacific Fleet Court. The re-trial started on July 11, 2001, and after the latest postponement, it seems unlikely that the Court will be able to determine the case before the end of the year.