In democratic Russia, nuclear safety is still done the Soviet way

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When Russia's Minister of Defense, Igor Rodionov, 
came to town this Monday to talk about nuclear safety, 
one important issue did not feature on his list of talking 
points: human rights

Russia still persecutes people who blow the whistle on
environmental hazards as traitors, particularly when 
these activists detect problems in the realm of the 
armed forces. The best known case is Alexander Nikitin's, 
who has been under investigation siince February of 1996 
for co-authoring a report on the Soviet nuclear legacy 
in the Arctic -- The Russian Northern Fleet - Sources 
of Radiocative Contamination, published by the Norwegian 
NGO Bellona.

Although the reprot is based entirely on open sources, 
the FSB, the unreformed sucessor of the KGB, charged 
Nikitin with spying, without ever making public the specific 
charges against him -- in clear violation of both Russian 
and international law. Nikitin was awarded the prestigious 
Goldman Award for his fight for a clean environment, 
although that meant fighting the forces of the Old Russia.

As Nikitin cannot leave St. Petersburg and faces the 
death penalty, many environmentalists don't dare to 
continue their work, and others are actively prohibited 
from pointing out the Northern Fleet's nuclear waste 
disaster, a Chernobyl in slow motion. Bellona does no
longer receive visas to Russia; not to continue the 
environmental work, not to testify in the Nikitin case.
At the same time Mr. Rodionov talks about nuclear 
safety in Washington, in Russia the number of 
decommissioned submarine reactors floating inports
unsecured increases, and people committed to act
are harassed or arrested by the FSB.

"The United States can appropriate billions in clean-up
money for Russia. But as long as all the decisions are 
made in Moscow by a small uniformed clique, most 
trained in the Soviet era, it won't do any good," said 
Thomas Jandl, director of Bellona USA. "To achieve 
long-term results, one must let the people with the 
strongest interest in the safety of teir environment, 
those living near the storage sites, participate in the 
process. That is what democracy is all about."

For more information or a copy of the Northern 
Fleet report, contact Bellona USA at 202-363-6810, or 
fax 202-363-9873.