The discussions between the two top officials, within the framework of a regular bilateral forum set up under Kirienko’s predecessor Victor Chernomyrdin, are to focus on the state of Russia’s economy as well as issues such as nuclear security. Bellona’s Washington sources assure the Nikitin case is on the list of talking points of the Vice President for this visit.
Prior to the visit, Aleksandr Nikitin wrote a letter to Vice President Al Gore, thanking him for past support while at the same time asking for additional help in this case of such importance for Russia’s development into a law-based society. Nikitin asked the Vice President to raise the issue publicly during his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Sergey Kirienko. However, no public announcement is expected.
Al Gore took up the Nikitin case meeting former Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin earlier this year. Later, in a letter to U.S. Congressman David Skaggs, the Vice President promised his full attention to the case in the future.
Aleksandr Nikitin is charged with espionage, disclosure of state secrets and falsification of travel documents while working for the Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona. He was arrested by the FSB on February 6, 1996, after writing two chapters for a Bellona report on the risk of radioactive pollution from Russia’s Northern Fleet. He was held in pre-trial detention until December 14, 1996, and has been officially restricted to the city limits of St. Petersburg since his release from custody. The investigation is now over, but the trial date is not likely to be before mid September this year.