“Losing is not an option”

Publish date: February 3, 1999

Written by: Runar Forseth

Aleksandr Nikitin was optimistic at a press conference in Moscow today, less than 24 hours before a Supreme Court ruling that could end his ordeal. Nikitin's defence will appeal for an open hearing.

"Tomorrow losing is not an option. I do not doubt that if the case is returned for further investigation it will be stopped because there are no further information or evidence to find. Our appeal asked for dismissal, since there has been no crime," Aleksandr Nikitin’s chief defender, Yuri Markovitch Schmidt, said at today’s press conference in Moscow.

Huge international interest

The press conference started at 15:30 Moscow time today, at the International Institute of Press in the Russian capital. 16 TV-cameras and at least 12 radio stations were present, along with a number of newspaper journalists and organisations’ and official representatives.

"It is not the purpose of this press conference to influence the Supreme Court decision," assured Schmidt at the outset, proceeding to state that the defence couldn’t really lose.

Schmidt to appeal closed door hearings
The defenders found the Supreme Court’s decision to close the hearing to the public strange. "All documents and information are available on the Internet. If the reason is to prevent secret information from being commonly known, I think this is a degradation of the concept of state secrets," said Schmidt.

"First thing tomorrow I will therefore file a complaint to have the Supreme Court hearing open."

"A shame for our legal system"
"Our legal system will be undermined if a case can always be forwarded to another level for a decision. So far the Nikitin case has been through seven indecisive levels. I hope the Supreme Court will finalise this case which now more and more is a shame for our legal system," said Gery Reznik, famous member of the Nikitin defence team.

Nuclear pollution cause for fear
"Bellona was founded after the Chernobyl disaster affected Norway considerably," said Frederic Hauge, president of the Bellona Foundation.

He continued to give an overview of Bellona’s work on nuclear pollution and potential sources of contamination in Northwest Russia. "Our work has given good results, and just before this case started the Governor of Murmansk invited us to join a workgroup to make a strategy for how to proceed with these issues. I am now afraid the Nikitin Case is stalling this work – and we do not have much time."

"If information that is open today can be secret tomorrow, it will be very hard to work," said Hauge. "We must stop this case now. There are no secrets in the Northern Fleet report. There is an international understanding to the effect that the problem must be dealt with. None of the actors within this are spies," he stressed. "Bellona are not spies, Alexander Nikitin is not a spy. We want to save the northern area, we are not spies, we are just afraid."

Nikitin continues to work for Bellona
"There are no secrets in the report and yes, I will continue to work for Bellona. As Frederic Hauge told you, there are important challenges that need to be dealt with," said Aleksandr Nikitin to an inquiring journalist.

Another journalist asked whether Nikitin will go to Canada when the case is over. "I am grateful that my wife and daughter were allowed to go to Canada, because I was very worried for their safety. As for me, I have no plans to go to Canada, I want to work in Russia on the issues outlined by Frederic Hauge earlier."

No comments on the Pasko case
"It would be unprofessional of us to answer on this now," Reznik told the BBC when asked about the relationship between the Nikitin and Pasko cases. Pasko, a military journalist, is standing trial at a military court in Vladivostok, accused of having disclosed state secrets in the form of information and video footage on the Russian Navy’s radioactive waste dumping.

"What I can say is that it is a mistake to take Pasko’s lawyer off the case. This they should not be allowed to do," said Reznik.

Nuclear clean-up acutely needed in Russia
"I know for sure there is a lot of work going on," answered Hauge on a question about current nuclear clean-up efforts. "There is still some information missing. It is now in the hands of the experts to suggest the best solutions to the problems. Last week I participated at a roundtable workshop arranged by Bellona USA, where several Duma members were present to discuss how to proceed on the necessary clean-up work."

Bellona hopes that the Russian nuclear industry can develop technology that may be used both in Russia and abroad on similar problems. "But I must emphasize that there is no place where the situation is as acute as in Russia," said Hauge.

"I want to stress the problems the Nikitin Case causes for national and international projects to improve the environmental situation in Russia," Hauge added at the end of the conference.

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