Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 234

Former Soviet naval captain Alexander Nikitin was released from prison on December 14 after spending some 10 months behind bars. He had co-authored a report on problems with nuclear waste in the Russian Northern Fleet published by the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group. Nikitin was arrested on February 6 by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and was first held as a witness in a case the FSB was building against Bellona. Then, in October, he was charged with high treason under Article 64 of the Soviet-era criminal code for allegedly providing classified information on submarine activities.

Nikitin’s lawyer, Yuri Shmidt, said the charges against his client — which could carry the death penalty — had not been dropped, but expressed confidence they would be. "This is the first time," Shmidt said, " that anyone charged under Article 64 has gone free." Shmidt credited Prosecutor General Yuri Skurltov with ordering Nikitin’s release. Nikitin’s incarceration had soured Russian relations with Norway and had prompted protests from human rights and environmental organizations around the world. The European Parliament had also asked the Russian government to investigate the matter. (Interfax, December 14-15; Boston Globe, December 15)

Russian "Piracy" Incident in Black Sea Almost Resolved.