Former Russian nuclear submarine captain Alexander Nikitin, winner of the Goldman Prize for protexting the environment, Russia’s first Amnesty International-declared Prisoner of Concience since Andrei Sakharov and current Chariman of the Environmental Right Center (ERC) Bellona turns 60 today.
Nikitin has worked with Bellona for some 17 years, beginning with his collaboration on the organization’s famous Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination report, which landed him in a five-year struggle against charges of treason brought by the Federal Security Service (FSB) – sucessor to the KGB.
He is also the first man to ever beat charges brought by the FSB.
His 1996 arrest and 10 month imprisonment brought international attention not only to the state of Russia’s infant democracy, but to the time bomb of hundreds of rusted out decommissioned nuclear submarines bobbing at dockside in Murmansk.
He was eventually let out of jail on a bond promising he would not leave the city of St. Petersburg.
After his arrest, Amnesty International declard him the first Post-Soviet prisoner of conscience in Russia. He was proceeded only by dissident physicist Sakharov.
In 1997, he was awarded the Goldman Prize, often billed as the environmental Nobel Prize, but was unable to attend the awards ceremony for the Goldman prize as he was still on trial with Russian authorities.
He used the money from the prize to begin ERC Bellona so that regular Russia’s would have somewhere to go to speak of their environmental and legal concerns.
In 2000, Nikitin was finally exhonerated of all charge against him by the presidium of Russia’s surpreme court.
“This is one of the hardest things Bellona has ever been through, and we were ecstatic the day that Alexander was acquitted,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “In hindsight, it is easy to be proud, both of Alexander and that we are the only ones who ever won a court case against the FSB.”
Today, Nikitin works out of Bellona’s Olso offices, directing the activities of ERC Bellona, working in the capacity of one of the world’s foremost authorities on nuclear issues and striving to ensure environmental transparency in Russia.
“We are proud and pleased to have Alexander here now. He is a great resoue on nuclear issues, and we at Bellona congratulate him on his birthday!”
At a celebration of his birthday, Nikitin joked that “by the time I reach my pension age of 67 here in Norway, I will have spent more time with Bellona that I did on nuclear submarines.”
Read more about Nikitin here.