A member of the German parliament urged Moscow yesterday to free a retired Russian naval officer arrested in St. Petersburg February 6 for alleged espionage. Wolfgang Behrendt argued that the arrest violates the human rights of the retired officer, Aleksandr Nikitin, and called upon the German government to make the issue a test case for Russian membership in the Council of Europe. He also urged Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel to intervene in the case. (4) Russia was voted into the Council of Europe January 25, but has not yet formally entered the body. The call comes at a difficult time for Kohl, who has emerged as a sympathetic supporter of Russia in recent weeks, and who embarks February 18 for Moscow to begin what are likely to be delicate talks with Russian leaders.
Nikitin, who once served in Russia’s Northern Fleet, was collecting information on that fleet’s nuclear waste storage facilities for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona when he was arrested. He has been charged under article 64a of the Russian criminal code with spying for a foreign state. A treason conviction is punishable by death or imprisonment for 10-15 years. Bellona has been under investigation by the Russian Federal Security Service since October, when agents raided offices and homes belonging to Bellona workers in Murmansk and St. Petersburg. A Bellona report issued in November concluded that nuclear waste from the Northern Fleet posed a greater danger than the Chernobyl nuclear accident of April 1986. (5)
NTV Says it Has Been Denied Access to Kremlin.