U.S. Congressman observes the trial: “These are not Russian problems”

Publish date: October 28, 1998

Written by: Siri Engesæth

ST. PETERSBURG (Bellona Web): Nuclear waste as an environmental problem, the relations between secrecy and government, and the rule of law and freedom of speech, were the three main reasons for David Skaggs' presence as an observer of the Nikitin trial, the Congressman told at a short press conference today.

"I have three reasons for my interest in this case," said U.S. Congressman David Skaggs to the press at Bellona’s ad hoc Observers and Press Center next door to St. Petersburg City Court today.

"First, the problems of nuclear waste, which are not specific to Russia, but also present in the USA. In the rocky flats of my homeland, there is a huge problem with radioactive contamination, which will cost 15,000 million dollars to clean up in the coming years."

"Secondly, I am concerned with the problems of secrecy and government. In USA there is also a problem with unlawful definitions of secrecy being used to hide information on environmental hazards. So this problem is not merely a problem of Russia."

"The third reason concerns the rule of law and the freedom of speech," said Skaggs, who thinks Nikitin’s trial is a very important test case on the juridical procedures of Russia. "A reasonable amount of transparency is necessary in dealing with these problems. This is why this case has reached such a high level of concern in the US Congress."

"Members of Congress have written letters to President Jeltsin," he said, "and many of us have written to members of our own government to have them bring this up with their Russian counterparts," said Skaggs. "- Energy Minister to Minatom minister, Foreign Minister to Foreign Minister and Vice President to former Prime Minister."

Skaggs himself had met with Deputy Governor Suplajev, as the Governor could not meet him. "Both gentlemen thought the case to be a difficult one and that the Court would have to decide," Skaggs reported.

The Congressman will not have time to go to Moscow, but hopes for further good meetings here in St. Petersburg. "I think it will be very perplexing if this case goes to a conviction. I have not, of course, been present at all the proceedings, but I still think that Nikitin’s efforts to bring attention to this very important area, also to the USA, are very important."

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