Bill Clinton praises work of Aleksandr Nikitin

Publish date: August 6, 2000

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The President of the United States gives credit for bringing to light radwaste issues in the Russia's Northern Fleet to NGOs, specifically to Aleksandr Nikitin.

The President of the United States released a statement August 3 praising a new law passed recently. The law is designed to strengthen regional co-operation among the Baltic States, Russia and all countries bordering the Baltic Sea. The law also highlights the need for continued international efforts to address the environmental dangers posed by nuclear waste in northwest Russia.

The President gives all the credit to environmental non-governmental organisations in Russia and elsewhere for brining to light issues related to nuclear waste. Aleksandr Nikitin is mentioned specifically for his contribution to the international understanding and study of environmental problems in the region.

“Both environmentalists and non-governmental organisations face increased challenges today,” follows the statement meaning the harassment envirogroups are experiencing from the Russian government.

Sam Gejdenson bill
The law signed by the President is called the “Cross-Boarder Cooperation and Environmental Safety in Northern Europe Act of 2000.” The bill was authored by Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), Senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. The legislation passed the House in May and the Senate in July, seeks to strengthen co-operation in Baltic area and to combat the environmental and security threats posed by laid up nuclear submarines in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk counties.

The main task of the bill will be to secure Russian general-purpose nuclear submarines. Decommissioning of these submarines are is not covered by such initiatives as Co-operative Threat Reduction that focuses only on strategic nuclear submarines being decommissioned under START-1 arms reduction treaty.

In a separate statement released on July 20, Sam Gejdenson described the new developments in the Nikitin case as “startling.” Gejdenson led key Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators in a strongly worded letter to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, warning him to “rein in” the Office of the Prosecutor General and to terminate the appeal against the acquittal of Aleksandr Nikitin.

Aleksand Nikitin was charged with high treason and divulging of state secrets for co-authoring Bellona’s report on radwaste issues at the Russian Northern Fleet. He was fully acquitted by St. Petersburg City Court in December 1999. The acquittal verdict was upheld by the Russian Supreme Court in April 2000. But in May, 2000, the Office of the Prosecutor General appealed the acquittal to the Full Presidium of the Supreme Court demanding the case be sent to a new investigation. The court hearing was scheduled for August 3 but was postponed until September 13.

At the reception in the U.S. Congress on July 20 arranged in honour of Bellona, Mr. Gejdenson said “my legislation is designed to ensure that the heroic work of Aleksandr Nikitin and the Bellona Foundation leads to a resolution of this dangerous situation [with retired nuclear submarines].” The Russian government should be put on notice that “environmental whistleblowers cannot be intimidated or silenced” added Mr. Gejdenson.