Aleksandr Nikitin won the first round of a lawsuit against Yevgeny Adamov, the Russian Minister for Atomic Energy, who violated the European Convention and compromised Nikitin’s right to a fair trial by telling reporters the environmentalist was guilty.
"I can say with all responsibility that more than half, 70 per cent, of information collected by Aleksandr Nikitin for the Bellona organisation has nothing in common with the environment,” Adamov told Radio Echo in Moscow on 8 May 1998.
“These (questions raised in the report) were normal, professionally set up intelligence questions."
On 5 November 1998, Adamov popped up in media reports that quoted him as saying Nikitin “was disclosing critical information, violated state secrecy rules and … was inflicting damage to the country."
Nikitin brought the suit against Adamov in the St. Petersburg District Court in December 1998, but the court rejected it, saying it would not deal with cases regarding state secrets. So Nikitin’s lawyers lodged a complaint.
The St. Petersburg City Court later agreed with the complaint at a brief session on 19 March 1999. The judge said the suit against Adamov would examine documents pertaining to state secrets. A court date has not been set.
Nikitin is accused of treason and divulging state secrets while co-authoring the Bellona report on radiation hazards in the Russian Northern Fleet. His case has lasted three-and-a-half years but could have ended when the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation heard it in February. The court sent the case back to the security police for further investigation.
Accusations against Nikitin stem from a subchapter in the report detailing safety problems linked to third-generation nuclear installations and a chapter on accidents aboard nuclear submarines.
Yury Schmidt, Nikitin’s defender, said that Adamov is "tossing the facts" by saying 70 per cent of the work had nothing to do with the environment.
He said Adamov’s logic suggests that accidents aboard nuclear-powered submarines do not pose a hazard to the environment.
"To go along further in Adamov’s way of thinking, the Chernobyl accident was nothing more that a boiler explosion … some steam, some contamination," Schmidt said.
In his excitement to condemn Nikitin, Adamov overlooked the findings of his own ministry. On 21 September 1996, experts from the Nuclear Energy Ministry concluded that the subchapter in question contained no state secrets.
Adamov has been silent about the Nikitin case in recent months.