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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete TV Chief Says Kosovo Nikitin's Fault

ST. PETERSBURG -- A former FSB official who authored an anti-Semitic novel has been put in charge of the newscasts on Petersburg Television - and already the station has aired programming alleging that environmentalist Alexander Nikitin is to blame for NATO's war in the Balkans.

Yevgeny Lukin, a former head of an anti-terrorist squad for the Federal Security Service, or FSB, was quietly appointed last month as director of the television station's news and information department.

It is not the first time Lukin has indulged his creative side. In addition to writing mediocre poetry, he authored a historical novel in 1996, "No Blood On the Butchers' Hands" about the KGB predecessor, the NKVD. It portrays Jews as responsible for the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, and characterizes the political terror that followed as Jewish revenge on Russian patriots.

And within just a few weeks of Lukin's arrival, Petersburg Television's prime-time daily show about crime had accused Nikitin of feeding Russian military secrets to the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona, which in turn gave it "to NATO."

Nikitin, a former navy captain, co-wrote a Bellona report alleging that the Russian navy is negligent with the nuclear waste it generates. The FSB responded by accusing Nikitin of treason. But Amnesty International calls him a prisoner of conscience, and the U.S. White House and other foreign governments have praised him and questioned the FSB case against him.

But these days, with an FSB man in charge at Petersburg Television, few are questioning the FSB case against Nikitin on the air. The station's popular crime program "Television Security Service" argued in its March 30 broadcast that Nikitin's Bellona report cost Russia its reputation as a nuclear superpower in the eyes of the West - and so clearing the way for impudent NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

"Why should one consider the opinion of a nuclear power whose secrets were long ago made public?" correspondent Olga Bezborodova said during the broadcast. Noting that Nikitin had filed a libel suit against the nuclear power minister, Yevgeny Adamov, after Adamov called him a spy, she added sarcastically, "Nikitin will protect his honor and dignity ... [but] it is obvious that one cannot protect something that turns a great empire into a poor country."

Boris Pustyntsev, chairman of the local Citizens' Watch human rights group, was witheringly critical of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev over Lukin's appointment. City Hall is the largest shareholder in Petersburg Television, formerly Channel 5, with a 38 percent stake, and Yakovlev has appointed his vice governor, Alexander Potekhin, chairman of the television station's board of directors.

"Lukin's anti-Semitic disposition is well-known," said Pustyntsev, adding that if the governor and his lieutenant "don't know who Lukin is, they are incompetent."

"If they do know, then, at best, they are conniving," he added. "And at worst, theirs is a policy of solidarity with Lukin's point of view - and then we're indeed becoming a nationalist state."

Potekhin refused to comment. Nobody else at Petersburg Television would comment on Lukin's appointment, and Lukin, reached by phone this week, said he would not talk to any reporters for another two weeks. He did not say why.

Lukin is not the Yakovlev administration's first controversial appointment at Petersburg Television. Alexander Nevzorov, the gonzo journalist and State Duma deputy, has been Yakovlev's media adviser since January 1998.

Recently Nevzorov has taken on new programming responsibilities at Petersburg Television - the station where, when it was Channel 5, Nevzorov made his fame as the anchor of "600 Seconds," an in-your-face, anti-Kremlin ten minutes that scandalized the government.

These days, Nevzorov is again raising hackles. In February, 14 of St. Petersburg's luminaries, including Nikitin's lawyer Yury Schmidt and literary historian Dmitry Likhachyov, wrote an open letter to the governor complaining that shows anchored by Nevzorov glorified organized crime.