Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 135

In a move likely to raise new concerns among human rights groups in Russia and the West, security agents in Russia’s Far East have raided the home and laboratory of a scientist studying the Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear wastes. Reports out of Vladivostok yesterday said that on July 3 agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) had seized documents and letters belonging to Vladimir Soifer. The sixty-nine year-old scientist, who is currently in Moscow being treated for diabetes, has spent forty years studying the radioactive contamination of Russia’s oceans. More recently, he has been analyzing the effects of the Pacific’s Fleet’s dumping of liquid nuclear wastes into the Sea of Japan. The dumping incidents, which took place several years, caused considerable tensions between Russia and Japan.

Although Soifer has apparently not yet been charged, the search warrant obtained by the security service said that he had violated laws on handling classified documents and that he posed a threat to the country. The materials seized from Soifer have reportedly been sent for analysis to Russian military intelligence (AP, BBC, Russian agencies, July 13).

Soifer is not the first to suffer from the Russian navy’s apparent determination to conceal from the public its nuclear waste storage and dumping practices. Two Russian naval officers–Aleksandr Nikitin and Grigory Pasko–have already been indicted on treason charges for their work in bringing to light the navy’s practices in this area. Their cases have been publicized by international human rights groups, and Nikitin’s case in particular has become an issue for several Western governments. Indeed, during last week’s OSCE parliamentary assembly the objections of Russian delegates were not limited to a resolution on Yugoslavia (see above). The Russian lawmakers were reportedly also angered by an OSCE resolution which voiced support for Nikitin and described him as a “victim of an unfair judicial process” (AP, July 10).

But Soifer’s case may have more to do with that of Pasko, at least if one of Russia’s best-known environmentalists is to be believed. Aleksandr Yablokov suggested yesterday that Soifer was being persecuted because of the FSB’s failure to win a conviction against Pasko, a military journalist who was arrested in 1997 for his investigations into the Pacific Fleet’s nuclear waste practices. Pasko’s long treason trial was resumed this month, and a verdict could be handed down as early as this week. An environmental group whose leadership includes Yablokov issued a statement yesterday charging that “instead of protecting Russia from the import of radioactive and toxic wastes, the special services are persecuting those who care about Russia’s ecological safety.” A counter-intelligence officer for the Russian Pacific Fleet yesterday denied any connection between Soifer’s and Pasko’s cases (AP, Russian agencies, July 13).