Nuclear minister still has to pay

Den russiske Atomenergiministeren Yevgeny Adamov: 70 prosent av rapporten var spionasje.
Foto: Minatom

Publish date: November 13, 2000

Written by: Igor Kudrik

A higher court rules that the Russian nuclear minister has to pay Aleksandr Nikitin for calling him a spy.

St Petersburg City Court ruled last week that Russia’s nuclear minister, Yevgeny Adamov, has to reimburse Aleksandr Nikitin with 10,000 roubles (an equivalent of $350) for calling him publicly a spy. A district court in St Petersburg reached the same decision in June 2000, but the ruling was appealed by Mr Adamov’s defence to the higher court. Newspapers and agencies that published the high-ranking lies are obliged to place a disclaimer.

“I can say with all responsibility that more than half, 70%, of information collected by Aleksandr Nikitin for Bellona foundation has nothing in common with the environment,” Mr Adamov told Radio Echo in Moscow on May 8th 1998.

“These [questions raised in the report] were normal, professionally set up intelligence questions.”

On November 5th 1998, Adamov was in press reports again that quoted him as saying that Nikitin “was disclosing critical information, violated state secrecy rules and … was inflicting damage to the country”.

These and other quotations prompted Nikitin to file a suit against the official.

Aleksandr Nikitin was accused of high treason and divulging of state secrets for co-authoring Bellona’s report on radiation hazards in the Russian Northern Fleet. His case had been lasting for four and half years and was ended by St Petersburg City Court with full acquittal in December 1999. The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court upheld the acquittal in September 2000 turning down the appeal filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Adamov’s defence presents study

The line of defence taken by Adamov’s lawyers came as a shocking surprise for Nikitin’s lawyer, Ivan Pavlov.

“They ordered a whole study of publications about the Nikitin case in the press during the past five years at the Moscow-based World Literature Institute,” Pavlov said in an interview with Bellona Web.

The intention of the study was to show that the minister was not the first to call Nikitin a spy. Thus, there was nothing new in the words of Mr Adamov of what the public was not aware of from before. The district court said earlier in its decision that the high-ranking official contributed to creating a bad image of Aleksandr Nikitin.

“Adamov’s defence was basically saying that since others were out in the press with accusations against Nikitin, then it was no big deal that the minister’s voice was added to the chore,” Pavlov added.

But the City Court was not persuaded by either the study or such argumentation and upheld the decision in favour of Nikitin reached earlier by the district court.

Next session in Moscow?

Although the ruling can not be appealed to a higher court, a number of possibilities exist to get the case back to the court system by initiating a protest from either the St Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office or the chairman of the City Court. If it does not work in Adamov’s way in St Petersburg, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court may be involved. The minister’s defence team seems to have such possibilities and will use them. “Next time we meet each other in Moscow,” Adamov’s lawyer said to Ivan Pavlov when the court session was over.