Press release: Sierra Club rally protests persecution of russian environmentalist Groups Urge Vice

June 25, 1998
Contact: Daniel Silverman, (415) 977-5526
Stephen Mills, (202) 675-6691

Sierra Club rally protests persecution of russian environmentalist
Groups Urge Vice President Gore to Publicly Address Human Rights Violation

San Francisco, CA — The Sierra Club and other organizations organized a protest today in front of the Russian Embassy in San Francisco to decry the persecution of Alexander Nikitin, a Russian environmentalist who is unfairly being charged with treason. At the protest new information was released proving Nikitin’s innocence. Nikitin, winner of a 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize from the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation, is being persecuted for contributing to a report which uncovered illegal nuclear waste dumping by the Russian Navy along an international fishing area.

The Sierra Club and other organizations dedicated to promoting human rights urged Vice President Gore to raise this issue publicly when he travels to Russia next month to meet with the country’s new Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko. "We have seen our elected officials all too willing to cast human rights aside whenever trade issues are involved. Our job is to hold them accountable," said Stephen Mills, director of the Sierra Club’s Human Rights and the Environment Campaign.

"This is not an anti-Russia rally," Mills emphasized. "We are here to show our support for internationally recognized human rights law, the Russian constitution, for President Yeltsin, and for Alexander Nikitin. In the new Russia, ideas were not supposed to be silenced. But they have been in this report — a report that was intended to alert the world to serious public health and environmental threats."

Russian officials charge that Nikitin violated state secrets in publishing his report which documents that "without international cooperation and financing, a grave situation could arise which can be pictured as a Chernobyl in slow motion."

Yet, a new document released at today’s protest vindicates Nikitin. The report was written by three Russian admirals, despite the fact that this may put their own lives in danger.

By comparing Nikitin’s report with what was publicly available in the mass media, the Admirals have concluded that Nikitin could not have conveyed state secrets to a foreign state. This new evidence shows that after a 26-month investigation, there is still no proof to support the charges against Alexander Nikitin.

"The environment can not be protected in the U.S., or Russia, or anywhere else unless we are allowed to speak out, to organize, to demand change, and to challenge industry and our political leaders to protect our health and the natural resources we need to survive," declared Mills.

Mayor Willie Brown also proclaimed June 25 to be Alexander Nikitin Day in San Francisco.