Pressrelease, Nikitin trial 1999, November 22
As is known, the first court hearings on this unprecedented case in the history of the Russian justice system were held in the autumn of 1998. Then, the court decided that the prosecution had not presented the necessary evidence for a final decision on the case and returned it for additional investigation.
At regular meetings, the defence team updated the press in detail about all aspects of the case. At the same time, it rarely spoke about the political reasons for both launching the criminal case, and for persisting with an espionage investigation against Nikitin for now more than four years for his participation in the publication of the Bellona report. Therefore today, on the eve of the trial, we want to summarise the investigation and to detail the developed of events in the autumn of 1995.
After Russian independence, the political leadership declared its intention to reduce international tensions and the nuclear threat, including that presented by the accumulation of radioactive waste at nuclear submarine bases. Within a short time, a number of the international agreements aimed at solving the problems accumulated during decades were signed.
In the summer and autumn of 1995, diplomats actively prepare for signing «The Memorandum on the Russian-Norwegian cooperation in the field of nuclear safety». On October 4, 1995, the minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation, ?ndrei Kozyrev, and his Norwegian counterpart Bjorn-Tore Godal signed this document. The memorandum also contains points of mutual obligations on presenting the information about nuclear objects and nuclear activities, and also an arrangement on the prompt preparation of «The Protocol on practical measures» in connection with the earlier “Agreement on the operative notification about nuclear accident and information exchange about nuclear installations”.
In the same time, they also offered official support for Bellona’s work on the nuclear waste storage ship ‘Lepse’ and other issues. Bellona also received officials support for collecting information about nuclear problems and was repeatedly commened by the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk administrations, and even by the former leadership of Russias ministry of atomic energy. Subsequently, in 1994, Bellona published the report “Sources of radioactive contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk counties”.
It is no secret that such policies in bilateral relations were not universally appreciated. The ‘hawks’ were not prepared to stand up openly to the government, but the FSB was screaming about increasing intelligence activity against Russia. The impossibility of frontal attack led to the search of a different approach. The attack against environmentalists was one of them.
While diplomats did their work, the FSB together with the high-rank officers from the Russian navy prepare to launch the criminal case against Bellona and Nikitin, accusing them of collecting environmental information necessary to find solutions to the nuclear problems of international concern. On October 5, 1995, the very day (!) after signing the Memorandum, the FSB launched the criminal case, accusing environmentalists of encroachment on the state secret of Russia.
The FSB and the military kept a watchful eye on Bellona’s activities. In the spring of 1995, the interest in Bellona sharply increased. The reason for this was the publication of the above mentioned Report and information about preparing the second edition of “The Russian Northern Fleet: sources of radioactive contamination”. Its publication was planned for the spring of 1996, one decade after the Chernobyl accident and during a meeting of the B8 in Moscow devoted to the problems of nuclear safety. Bellona invited several Russian experts on nuclear safety to take part in writing the report. One of them was Alexander Nikitin.
From the case files it is known, that he and other authors were shadowed by the FSB, at least from July 1995 on. Each stage of Nikitin’s and other authors’ work was under FSB control. According to the Constitution and laws of Russia, a task of FSB is the protection of state interests. If the FSB really cared about protection of the interests of Russia, it had to prevent collection of the information and its consequent transferral abroad. The case files prove that it had all the chances to do so. However, being ruled completely by different ideas, it patiently waited until the report was completed and transferred to Norway for the publication. Thus, the purpose of the FSB was not the protection of the state secrets, but the artificial creation of an espionage case with participation of a foreign (Norwegian) organisation and Russian citizens. Assuming that information transferred by Nikitin really contained secret information, then those who consciously allowed the outflow should be equally criminally liable.
As of autumn of 1995, the desirable result was not achieved, the political provocateurs took their next step. In February 1996, they imprisoned Nikitin. It was done on the eve of President Yeltsin’s visit to Oslo, planned for March, where signing of “The Declarations on the relationship foundations between Russia and Norway” should take place. This arrest darkened significantly the atmosphere of the visit, and the answers of the President (based on the false information supplied by the FSB) to the questions about this case, have made a negative impression on the world society.
Fortunately, the plans of those who by promoting the far-fetched business pursued the far-reaching purposes, were not fulfilled, though the certain delay of rates of cooperation between Russia and Norway, and also European Union, which, first of all, caused a loss to our country, has taken place.
Today, after four years of investigation, the “Nikitin case” does not promise any more dividends to its initiators. By contrast, it is like a thorn in their side. They have lost the fight on the political field, and will lose it and on the legal one too. The evidence the prosecution intends to present to the Court is from the legal point of view insignificant. Practically, all investigation actions, since the decision to launch the criminal case, were made by infringing on Russian legal norms. The latest (the eighth!) set of charges are based on retroactive law, which is in violation of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. All expert evaluations of the 8th Department of the Russian Military Headquarters are based on the illegitimate (not subjects to application) orders of the minister of defence. The items of information, which were allegedly disclosed by Nikitin, had been published long before the Bellona report was published. In such a situation it is difficult to understand what arguments the FSB will use to convince the Court to pronounce a guilty verdict for Nikitin.
November 22, 1999