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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Free at Last, Nikitin Embarks on World Tour




Nearly five years after he was thrown in jail and a month after he was acquitted by the Supreme Court, Navy captain-turned-environmentalist Alexander Nikitin is finally free to leave the country.


Nikitin, who stood accused of high treason and espionage by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, for more than four years, last week received his international passport.


"This is the best news of the month," a smiling Nikitin said as he proudly demonstrated his new passport in a small Moscow coffee house earlier this week. The document has already been stamped with Norwegian and U.S. visas - and there were more to come, Nikitin said.


On Monday, Nikitin will leave on a three-month trip that will take him to Norway, Sweden, Canada, the United States, France and Germany. During the trip he will visit his wife, who lives in Toronto, and daughter, who goes to college in Massachusetts.


His first stop will be Oslo, Norway, where he will work on a report with Norwegian environmental group Bellona due to be published in the fall. The report, he said, will present Bellona's proposals for cleaning up nuclear waste in northern Russia.


Nikitin first caught the attention of the FSB in 1995 when he co-authored a Bellona report exposing the hazards of the country's nuclear fleet. He spent more than 10 months in solitary confinement in the St. Petersburg FSB jail before being released in December 1996 on the condition that he not leave St. Petersburg.


Last December, he was acquitted by the St. Petersburg City Court; the acquittal was upheld by the Moscow-based Supreme Court in April.


During his travels, Nikitin also plans to collect numerous international awards he has received for his environmental efforts - including an award from Green Party Sweden and the Norwegian Free World prize. He said he also was invited to give lectures on environmental and human rights issues at Berlin University.


Nikitin said he will return to Russia in late August. He said he will continue his work as Bellona's national representative and one of the leaders of the Environmental Rights Center in St. Petersburg.


While in Moscow, Nikitin plans to attend the weeklong world congress of International PEN, which opened Tuesday in the Radisson-Slavjanskaya Hotel. According to Interfax, almost 300 writers from 78 countries are attending.


In his speech to the congress, the president of International PEN, Mexican poet and novelist Homero Aridjis, said delegates would discuss threats to writers and journalists around the world, Reuters reported.


He talked about the detention earlier this year of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky, whose coverage of the Chechen war angered the Kremlin.


Aridjis also broached the trials of Nikitin and Grigory Pasko, another environmentalist accused of espionage by the FSB.