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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: As Spy Scandals Peak, Ecology Loses Out to Beer

The [espionage] case now under way against [former Russian navy Captain] Alexander Nikitin, an employee of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, has become one of the main events of life in Norway. ? There they are calling Alexander Nikitin's case the greatest test of Russia's adherence to democratic principals. ?

"During the financial crisis and in view of the country's deepening international isolation, Russia cannot allow breaches of internationally accepted human rights in the court case against Nikitin," maintained "Aftenposten," the country's largest newspaper.

In a conversation with Norwegian colleagues the accused himself was not so optimistic. In his opinion, central power in Russia today is weaker than it was in 1991: Neither Yeltsin nor Primakov are in control of the situation, and the Federal Security Service is emerging as an independent force that does not have to answer to anybody. ?

Nikitin attributes his own low popularity rating among Russians to the differing perception that they and Norwegians have of his and Bellona's cause.

"Russians are about as far removed from [the importance of] ecological problems as they are from Niagara Falls. If you ask one of my countrymen to donate two rubles to help preserve nature, he will tell you that he'd rather use this money to buy himself a beer."

Novye Izvestia, Oct. 21

Clash of Titans, Critics

The public is starting to regard the trial in the St. Petersburg city court as being more than just a clash between the intelligence services and a person's legal right to comprehensive information concerning health hazards and environmental safety. It is also seen as a struggle between the collective ideology of the secretive organs of power and their unrelenting critics. Which side will win this struggle f the law and common sense or the strictly departmental approach f will be decided in court.

Izvestia, Oct. 21

Accused to Aggrieved

Captain Grigory Pasko, the correspondent of the Boyevaya Vakhta newspaper who has been accused of spying, has filed suit against the Japanese television company NHK. Pasko claims that NHK breached his author's rights by showing a film that included shots he had taken of nuclear waste being dumped in the sea of Japan. ?

The case against Pasko was supposed to start last week but was rescheduled at his lawyers' request, on the grounds that the journalist had not been able to familiarize himself with the case material. He was unable to do so because he was being held in a cell with ordinary criminals, and since the case is classified, his cellmates could have learned some of the Pacific Fleet's secrets. ?

If the court decides that the Japanese did breach Pasko's rights, then the film will have to be removed as case evidence, even though it was the basis for the charges in the first place. And at the same time, the journalist will get $100,000 compensation from NHK.

Kommersant Daily, Oct. 22

Spies Like Us

In the North Caucasus, a withdrawal from Dagestan is now getting under way, although along different lines from the exodus from Chechnya. Having received secret orders, the power branches have been the first to move. According to confidential sources, since February the Federal Security Service has been secretly removing archives, documentation and secret-service card indexes from the "country of the mountains" to the capital. The absence of financial and, most important, political means is forcing the counter-intelligence services to accept defeat in the face of an improbable influx of Pakistani, Turkish, Iranian, Saudi and American spies into Dagestan. These spies operate almost openly under the banner of construction, oil and pharmaceutical firms and various humanitarian missions. The cascade of money that has arrived here from Islamic organizations has far exceeded the yearly budget of the FSB and the Interior Ministry put together.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Oct. 21

Forgive Our Trespasses

A few days ago a sentry at military unit 65400 spotted from his watchtower two suspicious-looking people approaching the perimeter fence. They climbed over the fence and set off toward the center of the unit. ? A patrol went out to intercept the uninvited visitors, who did not try to run or put up any resistance, and produced passports immediately. ?

They both identified themselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose followers are better known as Mormons. When asked about the purpose of their unlawful entry onto military property, they said they had come to hold religious conversations with soldiers. But why they had to secretly climb over the fence to do this, they couldn't say. ?

Counter-intelligence agents were in for a disappointment: The Mormons had no special spying equipment on them. The only things they had in their pockets were harmless religious booklets. ?

A spokesman for the FSB said there has been a rising number of cases involving foreign citizens infiltrating military areas in the guise of preachers and missionaries. They all claim they are "bringing the word of God to soldiers gone by the wayside," although few of them reach their military flock by lawful means.

Just what exactly lurks behind their professed good intentions is hard to say, but the counter-intelligence services cannot overcome suspicions that some of these missionaries combine their sermonizing with other extremely specific tasks. Nevertheless, nothing concrete has been proven to this day, nor have any of the preachers detained by the military been linked to spying.

Segodnya, Oct. 22