years ago, Russian Navy Captain Grigory Pasko - then
a military journalist - was jailed on charges of high treason
for allegedly selling state secrets to Japan, primarily
concerning Russia's disposal of nuclear waste. Pasko, who
was a stringer for Japanese news station NHK, had filmed
the dumping of liquid radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan
and documented other environmental hazards created by
the Pacific Fleet. The charges against Pasko remained
secret, but those leaked to the press by Pasko's supporters
bordered on the ludicrous. He was accused, for example, of
illegally covering a meeting at which top brass planned a
military training exercise - despite the fact that he had been
specifically invited to
cover the meeting for Boyevaya Vakhta, the Pacific Fleet newspaper.
International adopted Pasko as a prisoner of conscience, and a
flood of letters
arrived defending him as a second Alexander Nikitin, another former
captain who was tried repeatedly for revealing environmental abuses
Northern Fleet. Last year after 20 months in jail, Pasko was acquitted
charges and convicted on a minor charge of unmilitary conduct.
sentenced to time served and released. Both the Federal Security
FSB, and Pasko sought to overturn the decision. The FSB wanted
behind bars. Pasko wanted to clear his name. Pasko spoke with
Petersburg Times' Russell Working in Vladivostok about the case
his fight for vindication and the environmental problems facing
Q:Where does your case currently stand, and what verdict do you
A: I suspect the appeal is two-thirds done. On Sept. 28, the
court declared a
one-month recess. On Nov. 29, the court will announce the results
of its review of
all the documents. Then both sides will present arguments. And
finally, the court
will announce a verdict.
Nov. 20 will mark four years since this whole thing started.
Under the law, the
court has no grounds for conviction. Our opponents are grasping
at all sorts of
charges. They're even trying to charge me under Article 283:divulging
secrets. It's nonsense. No crime has been committed. They leak
the press, trying to convince the public that Pasko is a criminal.
They failed to
prove that I was a spy, so now they think any charge will do.
Pasko must be
convicted. But we think the verdict will be "not guilty."
If not, we'll appeal to the
international court in Strasbourg.
Q: It is said that since you no longer work for the Pacific Fleet,
no one covers
its environmental problems anymore. What dangers are people not
A: I can't answer this concretely, because I have been out of
the loop for four
years. But judging from what Pacific Fleet officers tell me, and
also from what I
have learned during my closed military trial - it was declared
proceeding only to prevent the public from learning about the
lawlessness of the
FSB and military officials in contaminated areas - the biggest
in Primorye are the decommissioned nuclear submarines and nuclear-waste
storage sites. In the Far East, nuclear submarines are located
in two places:
Krasheninnikova Bay in Kamchatka and near Sysoyeva Bay in Primorye.
these two spots there is potential for a disaster of enormous
But the environmentalists say we suffer most from the garbage
Gornostai Bay, and from the huge number of cars that poison the
air. And they
are right. The local government can't even cope with a relatively
like a garbage dump within Vladivostok city limits on the shore
of Peter the
Great Bay. How do you expect them to deal with decommissioned
Q: Have the authorities done anything right?
A: Yes, some things have been done. In Bol shoi Kamen, they built
plant to purify radioactive waste. The construction order was
issued in 1992, but
the plant only came online this year. Thanks to American aid,
they have the
capacity to store nuclear fuel at Sysoyeva Bay and to store ballistic
from the submarines before they are processed.
I suspect that the countries that might help solve these problems
appreciate the truly horrific situation in our dangerous radioactive
they don't know because Russia, following Soviet practice, classifies
information on nuclear-waste storage.
Last year, all the decommissioned submarines and storage facilities
handed over to the Atomic Energy Ministry. Now the Pacific Fleet
responsibility for them. The ministry created a government-owned
Dalrao, to handle the subs and storage facilities. And they appointed
military man, Rear Admiral [Nikolai] Lysenko, to run it. Lysenko
demonstrated a crude adherence to the government line. When he
was asked in
court what he knew about Article 7 of the Official Secrets Act
that information about environmental dangers cannot be classified],
he replied: "I
don't need to know anything about that. The Defense Ministry issued
decree, No. 075." Until someone charges officials like Lysenko
concealment of information affecting public health, he and his
ilk will never have
any cause to shake up their petrified military mindset.
Q: Did you ever knowingly photocopy secret documents, as rumor
A: I never broke the law. First of all, military journalists
are so restricted in their
work that they can't do anything without someone else's participation.
It would be
impossible to get hold of secret documents containing evidence
dumping of thousands of barrels of [the poisonous chemicals] lewisite
yperite without anyone's knowledge. I knew, however, that such
existed, and that they contained the exact amounts dumped and
coordinates for the dumping sites. But I had no access to them.
Knowing that these documents existed, I exhausted every legal
demanding that they be declassified. And when I published articles
environment I was protected by Article 7 of the Official Secrets
officers understood this and provided me with information. Strangely,
articles came out, portions of this information were suddenly
Russian law, the FSB had no right to do this. They did so in order
to build a
criminal case against me.
Q: There was talk in navy circles that some of your sources were
punished for providing you with classified information.
A: That's nonsense. Fifty-three witnesses have been interrogated.
None of my
regular sources ever gave me classified documents. And none of
Q: If your cause hadn't been taken up by human-rights groups
international press, is it possible that the judge in your first
trial would have
ruled to keep you in jail instead of releasing you?
A: Had I been a Japanese spy, probably yes. The court received
from all over the world - from Australia, America, all over Europe.
letters had been delivered, but I had been guilty, they wouldn't
Faced with my clear innocence and 24,000 letters, the court still
found me guilty
of a bizarre charge that doesn't apply to my case.
When I talk to journalists from other countries, I always thank
the people and
organizations for their concern. For some reason, the biggest
number of letters
to the court and various government agencies came from Holland.
So I thank all
the countries that supported me - we counted 98 of them - and
to the Dutch I
bear a special debt of gratitude.