Written Answers. - Detention of Aleksandr Nikitin.

Ray Burke

Ceist:

63 Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government is aware of the case of Aleksandr Nikitin, who has been detained in Federal Security Bureau custody for the past seven months in St. Petersburg; the Government's and the EU's position in this regard; and the steps, if any, being taken by the Government, in its capacity as the national executive and EU President, to guarantee the protection of the human and constitutional rights of Mr. Nikitin. [24344/96]

I am aware of the case of Alexander Nikitin. Mr. Nikitin is a former Captain in the Russian Navy, from which he retired in 1992. He is currently employed by the Norwegian environmental organisation, Bellona, in which capacity he was co-author of a report on potential pollution dangers arising from Russian nuclear submarines in the Arctic.

He was arrested on 6 February 1996 by the Russian federal security authorities (the FSB) and subsequently charged with espionage inter alia, on the basis that the report referred to above — then at draft stage — contained state secrets. He was held without trial and without bail. He was released on 14 December pending trial.

The case has attracted a good deal of concern, including that of the European Parliament, which has passed a number or resolutions on the subject. I share these concerns and have raised them, in my capacity as EU Presidency, directly with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov during the EU Troika Ministerial meeting on 8 November.

I will continue to monitor the situation closely together with EU partners.