On July 7, the suit filed by Alexey Yablokov against Nezavisimaya Gazette and Minatom’s spokesman Georgy Kaurov ended with Yablokov’s victory in Moscows district court. Yablokov filed his complaint after Nezavisimaya Gazette published an article on the portable suitcase nuclear devices and Yablokov’s role in the scandal surrounding them on November 22 last year. The article gave special attention to Yablokov’s testimony in front of a U.S. Congress committee on October 2 1997. The testimony related to the portable nuclear devices, which allegedly were developed in Soviet times and which according to Yablokov are no longer under tight control of the Russian authorities.
The complaint contained five counts. On the two most important ones, directly related to Yablokov, the judge sided with Yablokov. The others were not under this courts purview, as they were only of indirect relevance to Yablokov.
Georgy Kaurov and a journalist from Nezavisimaya Gazette co-authored an article, in which they claim among other things that Yablokov, who had access to secret information, "shared it with his colleagues in Russia and abroad." Thus, the article accused Yablokov de facto of espionage and divulging of state secrets. This and similar statements in the article were found slanderous by the judge, after both sides had presented their arguments.
Another issue of importance in Yablokov’s lawsuit focused on the following statement in the article: "With the purpose to perform destruction activities (Ed. note: Against Russia) without being punished, and often to cover up intelligence for foreign states, a number of laws were dragged through the Russian parliament, the laws which prohibit classifying of information related to the environmental situation."
Although not related to Yablokov directly, the accusation was serious enough both for the Russian Duma and for the Russian environmental movement. Therefore Yablokov included it in his suit.
Explaining this statement, Minatom’s representative Georgy Kaurov said that all environmental movements are spy-nests for foreign intelligence services. Without presenting any substantial evidence, Kaurov mentioned the Nikitin and Pasko cases as examples.
All in all, the court obliged in its decision Nezavisimaya Gazette to publish a retraction to the article by September 8 of this year. The journalist, Nezavisimaya Gazette and Georgy Kaurov are obliged to pay a total of some $5000 to Yablokov.
Following the court decision, Nezavisimaya Gazette published a brief article saying the paper will appeal. But the statements wording failed to inspire confidence in the seriousness of the paper to follow through.
Nezavisimaya Gazette (freely translated as "Independent Gazette") has been in a suspiciously cozy relationship with the Russian Security Police (FSB) the past two years. Minatom has been particularly hostile to Yablokov after his contribution to the scandal around a Iranian-Russian nuclear contract in 1995. That year, Minatom attempted to deliver to Iran the latest uranium enrichment technologies, which could have given Iran the capability to develop a nuclear bomb on its own. This deal was later stopped by the Russian President.