Press release: Russian environmental whistle-blower threatened rally at consulate to defend rights

Publish date: June 22, 1998

Supporters of Alexander Nikitin will hold a rally at noon on Thursday, June 25 in front of the Russian Consulate on Green Street to protest Russia's violation of human rights and disregard for environmental danger.

Contact person: Pnina Levermore (415) 585-1400

Russian environmental whistle-blower threatened
Rally at consulate to defend rights of Alexander Nikitin

Supporters of Alexander Nikitin will hold a rally at noon on Thursday, June 25 in front of the Russian Consulate on Green Street to protest Russia’s violation of human rights and disregard for environmental danger.

The rights of Alexander Nikitin, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for his report on Russia’s nuclear waste dumping, have been seriously violated by Russia’s FSB (successor to the KGB). Accusing Nikitin of espionage for a report that used unclassified material in the public domain, the FSB held him in pretrial detention for ten months. In response to public outcry., the Russian secret police released him from jail, but now denies him the right to leave St. Petersburg. In May the FSB added a new charge of treason to the barrage of accusations against Nikitin, continuing and intensifying its unrelenting two-year campaign of threat and harassment against him and his family.

Russia inherited its ecological problems from the Soviet Union. It also inherited the practice of suppressing open and democratic criticism. Environmental protection and human rights depend on citizen involvement. No country can pretend to be either democratic or sensitive to the environment when it forbids citizens to speak freely and persecutes them for exposing environmental degradation.

Public pressure helped to get Alexander Nikitin released from prison. Public pressure must now be exerted to secure his personal freedom and right to free speech. His cause is emblematic of the threat to Russia’s future democracy.

The rally is sponsored by the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, Pen Center USA West, and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

Letter to the mayor:

June 9, 1998

The Honorable Willie Brown, Jr.
Mayor, City of San Francisco
401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 336
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Mayor Brown:

On behalf of the human rights and environmental communities of San Francisco, we request your assistance in a case of major significance taking place in Russia. The Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal, together with the Sierra Club, the Bellona Group, Amnesty International, Pen Center USA West and the Union of Council for Soviet Jews, are currently organizing a major rally in support of Alexander Nikitin, scheduled for June 25th at the Russian Consulate here in San Francisco. Your involvement in this case would help send the message that the people of San Francisco, and of the United States as a whole, are committed to helping Russia move from totalitarianism to the kind of open society that fosters democracy, human rights and a safe environment.

Alexander Nikitin is an environmental researcher and recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. He has been recognized for his efforts to inform the Russian and international communities about the dangers of nuclear contamination in the Russian far north. Based on research using openly available, non-secret, material, Alexander contributed to a report on nuclear contamination issued by the Norwegian Bellona Foundation. In response, he was imprisoned for over ten months in pretrial detention, and the Russian government has continued the prosecution and harassment for over two years. Despite guarantees under Russian constitutional and international law, the FSB (successor to the KGB) relentlessly pursues Alexander, his family and his attorneys to manufacture an espionage and treason case against him.

Our goal is to use the June 25th event to focus world attention on the grave injustice being committed against Alexander Nikitin, and the serious questions this prosecution raises regarding cooperation between Russia and the United States on issues ranging from arms control and economic development to environmental cleanup and democratization. We also hope to stress that the people of San Francisco support the forces of democracy in Russia and oppose the revival of a state dominated by the old-guard security apparatus.

Mayor Brown, your participation in the June 25th rally would provide a tremendous boost to this event. On behalf of all the sponsoring organizations,, I express the sincere hope that you will be able to join us, and will consider declaring June 25, 1998 "Alexander Nikitin Day" in the city of San Francisco.

We have attached background information on Alexander’s case for your review and would welcome any questions you might have on the case or on our proposed activity.


Tony Hyams, President Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal

Becky Evans, Executive Committee Seirra Club, San Francisco Group

Thomas Jandel, Director Bellona, USA

Cosette Thompson, Western Regional Director Amnesty International

Yosef Abramowitz, President Union of Councils for Soviet Jews

Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write Program Pen Center USA West