Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 17

Closed proceedings against Captain 2nd Rank Grigory Pasko resumed in Vladivostok on January 21, and are continuing this week. Pasko is a military journalist who was arrested in November of 1997 on treason charges. Once an editor of the Pacific Fleet’s “Boyevaya vakhta” newspaper, Pasko had written a number of articles over several years describing the fleet’s negligence in dealing with its nuclear wastes (see the Monitor, December 1, 1997). Some of his work was done in cooperation with Japan’s NHK television network, and the treason charges against him are believed to involve allegations that he passed classified information about the Pacific Fleet to the Japanese media.

Pasko has been in jail since his arrest in 1997, and his case has drawn the attention of international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the France-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. Amnesty International has declared Pasko to be a prisoner of conscience, and earlier this month accused Russian authorities of failing to provide him with proper medical attention. If convicted, Pasko faces up to twenty years in prison. In an effort to focus attention on his case, and perhaps to win immunity from any prosecution, Pasko declared himself a candidate in Vladivostok’s January 17 local elections. He was unsuccessful, but will reportedly run as a candidate in by-elections scheduled for this spring (Russian agencies, January 19; AP, Itar-Tass, Russian TV, January 21; Itar-Tass, January 22, 25).

Although it has received less attention, Pasko’s case resembles Aleksandr Nikitin’s. Nikitin, a former Russian submarine captain, still faces treason charges for allegedly passing classified information about Russia’s Northern Fleet. Nikitin was one of several authors of a study, published by the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, which described the environmental dangers posed by the Northern Fleet’s nuclear wastes. His case, to a greater extent than Pasko’s, has won worldwide attention, and is seen by many as a test of Russia’s commitment to human rights. The fact that both men face treason charges suggests that Russia’s security forces–together with the naval high command–are determined to keep a lid on investigations into the fleet’s nuclear legacy and the environmental hazards it poses.