Aleksandr Nikitin, the retired Russian naval officer charged with treason for his co-authorship of a report on the nuclear hazards created by Russia’s Northern Fleet, has been formally indicted. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on October 2 that it had concluded its investigation into the case, and that Nikitin, who had been working for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, has been charged with espionage and the passing of state secrets. The crux of the case is the FSB’s assertion that Chapter 8 of the Bellona report — which deals with accidents on nuclear-powered submarines — contains classified information procured by Nikitin. Nikitin has also been charged with illegally using his military identification card to access classified documents at a St. Petersburg military installation. (Itar-Tass, October 2) According to an October 2 Bellona press release, the charges against Nikitin are based solely upon his work for Bellona.
Nikitin was arrested by FSB agents in February of this year and, despite numerous appeals, has been kept in solitary confinement since that time. The Bellona report, of which Nikitin was one of three main authors, is entitled "The Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination." Released by the Oslo-based environmental group in late August, it warns of the potential environmental hazards posed by the fleet’s nuclear legacy and says that international efforts are required to avoid a future "Chernobyl in slow motion." The report also notes that Nikitin’s arrest was part of a broader campaign of intimidation organized by the FSB to hinder Bellona’s research and to stop publication of the report. On August 30 Amnesty International officially declared Nikitin a "prisoner of conscience" and cast his case as a test of Russia’s independent judiciary. (See Monitor, September 4)
Bellona claims that its report is based solely upon open sources and contains no state secrets. According to the group’s October 2 statement, an expert committee from Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry concurred with that assessment in a decision rendered on September 26. But the FSB was said to have disregarded that finding and turned instead to a contrary report by Russia’s General Staff. Bellona has also taken issue with a dubious FSB claim that nuclear submarine accidents and safety do not fall under the purview of Russian laws on ecological safety. (Bellona Foundation press release, October 2)
Rodionov Brings in Some of His Own Men.