First witnesses heard in court

Publish date: October 23, 1998

Written by: Runar Forseth

ST. PETERSBURG, 14:20 (Bellona Web): The court, reopened to the public at 11:15 today, took a short break after hearing two witnesses: former Bellona Murmansk employee Sergey Filippov and Nikitin's former colleague at the Ministry of Defence Vladimir L. Rudenko. Frederic Hauge, president of Bellona, was clearly optimistic after the session. As expected, the court will again be closed after the break, as retired Admiral Chernov is the next witness.

First out was one of Nikitin’s former acquaintances from his studies at the Kuznetsov Naval Academy, Vladimir L. Rudenko, a former employee of the Inspection of Nuclear Safety of Atomic Installations. Rudenko had confirmed to Nikitin that literature on nuclear submarine accidents would be found at the Naval Academy.

Rudenko confirmed to having been in contact with Nikitin, and that he had read the Northern Fleet report. He said the two knew much of the same information from their career in the Ministry of Defence, and that they did discuss related matters on occasion. This, however was only natural given their background. On direct question from the prosecutor, Rudenko said that their conversations had not concerned state secrets. "We discussed open books and open articles from 1994 and 1995, there were many in that period," said Rudenko.

The judge was very interested in Rudenko’s opinions of whether the discussions between the witness and Nikitin had been relevant in an environmental context, and Rudenko confirmed this on almost all points. Also, the judge wondered who got access to information about larger accidents, and Rudenko answered "almost everybody" (within the Ministry of Defence).

Rudenko clearly stated that he considers information about accidents with nuclear equipment, such as submarines, to be of environmental relevance.

Former Bellona colleague heard as witness
Former employee at Bellona’s Murmansk office, Sergey Filippov, was next on the stand. The judge’s initial line of questioning was clearly aimed at establishing whether Filippov considered the Bellona Foundation as an environmental organisation, or if the foundation had another, possibly hidden, agenda.

"Do you have an impression that Bellona does not really work with the environment, but work with this as a cover to get secret information?" asked the judge. Filippovs answer to this was " No, I did not get such an impression. If I had, I would not have worked in the organisation."

Filippov confirmed that he had been a regular employee at the Murmansk office of Bellona from 1994 to 1997, and that he still does journalistic work on occasion. While his main areas of interest had been industrial pollution rather than matters concerning nuclear utilisation, he was quite familiar with Bellona’s work in the nuclear field.

As he, did Rudenko, the judge asked Filippov whether the Northern Fleet report is about environmental problems, or if it is a hidden document for foreign intelligence. "This is a technical subject, but it definitely describes environmental problems," answered Filippov.

Optimistic Bellona President
"Today’s hearing of the witnesses clearly shows that the judge considers this case to concern the environment, rather than state secrets. This is a very promising development, for us and Aleksandr, as well as in the lager view of the Russian legislation on freedom to information. It is quite obvious that Judge Golets has read the Northen Fleet report thoroughly," said Frederic Hauge, Bellona President.