Nikitin vs. Nuclear Minister

Publish date: October 5, 1999

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The trial Nikitin vs. Adamov, the Russian Nuclear Minister, was held in St. Petersburg Tuesday. The final decision is postponed until December.

A court hearing of the case Aleksandr Nikitin vs. Yevgeny Adamov, the Russian Nuclear Minister who accused him publicly of disclosing state secrets, was held Tuesday in St. Petersburg, but the final decision is postponed. Adamov’s lawyer says that fight against his client might create problems for Nikitin.

"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."

The Adamov’s side would not elaborate on the merits of their boss’s words but rather preferred to use formal pretexts to postpone the final decision in this case. Finally, the judge said that since the audiotape with Adamov’s interview to the Radio Echo in Moscow was not delivered to the court, the hearing had to be postponed until December 14.

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 four years but could have ended when the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation heard it in February 1999. The court sent the case back to the security police (FSB) for further investigation. Now the case is pending another trial that is due by late autumn.

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.

Minatom finds no state secrets
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 on third-generation nuclear reactors contained no state secrets. The experts from Minatom refused to evaluate the chapter regarding accidents onboard nuclear submarines having said it was not their area of expertise.

But once it came to Adamov’s knowledge that Nikitin filed a suit against him, the Minister ordered a new expert evaluation that, according to Adamov’s lawyer present at the trial, concluded there were state secrets in the Bellona report. The evaluation, however, was not made available for the Judge. The lawyer said it was "classified."

Adamov avoids responsibility
"Adamov does not want to be held responsible for his own words," Aleksandr Nikitin told Bellona Web after the trial, "His defence team did everything possible to postpone the final decision in this case."

Adamov restrained from public statements on the Nikitin case since the suit was filed against him.

Adamov’s lawyer, however, made it clear for the journalists after the trial session that it would do no good to Nikitin to fight the Nuclear Minister. The lawyer also hinted that it was in power of Adamov to influence the outcome of the trial against Nikitin in late Autumn.