Newspaper to pay for defaming Nikitin

Publish date: July 5, 2001

St Petersburg newspaper will pay for utter slander against Nikitin. President Putin may be the next target.

Aleksandr Nikitin won a suit against a Russian daily, St Petersburg Chas Pik, on July 5th. The district court in St Petersburg ruled the newspaper has to reimburse Nikitin with 10,000 rubles, while a journalist from the newspaper has to contribute with 5,000 rubles.

The journalist, Yevgeny Zubarev, published an article after the Nikitin case was over in May 2000, saying that Nikitin was still a spy. He also wrote that the full acquittal reached in the St Petersburg Court was mainly due to the heavy pressure on the court from the Western community. The author went further saying that Bellona Foundation paid for the articles in favour of Nikitin and threatened those journalists, who presented the viewpoint of the Russian Security Police, or FSB, on the case. In the end of the article Zubarev said that the “justice was raped” and the judge had to acquit Nikitin only due to the gaps in the Russian legislation on state secrets.

Zubarev was used by the FSB to publish prejudices and intentional lies about the merits of the Nikitin case throughout the whole process. The editor-in-chief of St Petersburg Chas Pik is married to general Victor Cherkesov, who is currently occupying the position of President Putin representative in the North-Western District of Russia. Cherkesov was the chief of St Petersburg FSB when the Nikitin case was started. He is truly believed to be the initiator of the whole process. Back in 1980s Cherkesov was working in KGB’s Department 5th, being a witch-hunter for Soviet dissidents.

Aleksandr Nikitin won earlier a case against St Petersburg TV station, which said he must be held responsible for NATO bombing in Yugoslavia. Nikitin also won a case against former minister for nuclear energy, Yevgeny Adamov, who called him publicly a spy.

In the courtroom today, the lawyer representing St Petersburg Chas Pik used as an argument the interview with Vladimir Putin, who was then the head of the FSB. The interview was published in Russian national daily Komsomolskaya Pravda in July 1999. Putin said he believed all the environmental groups were mostly operating in Russia as a cover-up for Western intelligence services. He also added that Nikitin was guilty but the punishment should not be so severe taking into consideration the political consequences. The court would not consider such argument as valid.

Frederic Hauge, President of Bellona Foundation, said it was good of Chas Pik’s attorney to remind about the interview, since Bellona can now evaluate filing a suit against President Putin himself.

Aleksandr Nikitin was charged with high treason and disclosure of state secrets by the FSB for co-authoring Bellona’s report on nuclear safety issues in the Russian Northern Fleet. He was arrested in February 1996 and had spent almost 10 months in custody before he was finally released in December 1996. But the final acquittal came only in December 1999 in St Petersburg City Court. This verdict was later upheld by the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court in September 2000.

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