. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officers Defend Jailed Activist

Officers of Russia's Northern Fleet spoke out Tuesday in support of their imprisoned colleague, environmental activist Alexander Nikitin, who was arrested on charges of treason two months ago.

Nikitin, a former navy captain, was working at the time of his arrest for the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group that has published reports on nuclear waste storage in Russia's Far North. He was accused of leaking to Bellona classified information concerning nuclear waste storage and facilities.

"The accusation against Nikitin is pure falsification," said Vyacheslav Perovsky, a retired captain who served in the Northern Fleet with Nikitin.

"In my experience these documents always were accessible and are accessible now," he said, referring to the material Nikitin used to confirm information in the forthcoming Bellona report on the Northern Fleet.

Retired navy admiral Yevgeny Chernov concurred with Nikitin's assessment that the dilapidated state of the northern nuclear fleet could result in an ecological catastrophe. "They call the Northern Fleet a dump, but it is not a dump. It is an open grave," said Chernov, adding that the equipment is very old and does not comply to any standards.

"When a ship is new it is not a threat to anyone, but like all technology, it grows old and requires a great deal of maintenance," said Chernov.

According to Bellona director Frederic Hauge, Nikitin's arrest has jeopardized foreign support of Russia's environmental programs. "If Nikitin is convicted all our national funding will stop," Hauge said Tuesday. "If this information is considered secret than there can be no basis for international cooperation."

Nikitin is currently awaiting trial in a St. Petersburg jail.