Adamov Wants Trial Via Video Link

MTFormer Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov speaking under guard at the offices of Ekho Moskvy on Wednesday.
Five days after his release on bail from a Moscow prison, former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov said he was prepared to stand trial on charges of embezzling U.S. aid money -- but only via a video link.

"I not only want to stand trial, I insist on being present at the trial," Adamov told Ekho Moskvy radio Wednesday.

"I know that the law provides for the use of video links," Adamov said, clarifying remarks that he made last Friday after his release from Matrosskaya Tishina prison. At that time, Adamov said he would go to the United States to stand trial.

Adamov would almost certainly be arrested if he traveled to the United States, where the charges against him are still pending.

Adamov walked free last week after the Supreme Court ruled that he was eligible for bail because he had returned to Russia voluntarily, and because the investigation of his case had been completed. Adamov has been ordered not to leave the Moscow region.

The former minister appeared at the Ekho Moskvy office in handcuffs and flanked by two masked men in camouflage. "This is a tribute to the wishes of a considerable part of Russian society that wants to see at least one minister in handcuffs," Adamov said to explain the masquerade.

Adamov was arrested at the request of U.S. prosecutors while visiting his daughter in Switzerland in May 2005. He is charged with embezzling $9 million provided by the United States to improve nuclear safety in Russia. Some of the money turned up in bank accounts in Pennsylvania, U.S. prosecutors claim.

Russia objected to his extradition, saying the United States wanted to coerce Adamov into giving up Russian nuclear secrets. Switzerland extradited Adamov to Russia in December 2005 after Russian prosecutors charged him with fraud and abuse of office. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. The trial could begin as early as August.

The charges against Adamov in Russia are more sweeping than those he faces in the United States, and are partly related to older allegations that he embezzled money from the Russian government. They do not cover all of the charges made by U.S. prosecutors, however.

Adamov refused to elaborate on the case against him, saying he and his lawyers were bound by a gag order issued by the court. The date of Adamov's trial, which is expected to be held at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky court, will be set Thursday, a court spokeswoman said.

Adamov did shed some light on his New Year's Eve extradition to Russia, saying he paid $30,000 for a charter flight in order to speed up the procedure. He also said he feared being abducted by U.S. special forces.

Adamov, who worked on nuclear technology sales to Iran during his tenure as minister, was dismissed in 2001 by President Vladimir Putin. At about the same time, an anti-corruption committee in the State Duma accused him of illegally setting up companies inside and outside Russia.