Russia Pressures Finland Over Arrested Water Scientist
2 May 2012 - 10:47 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
MOSCOW, Russia — The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is demanding “clarification” from Finland about the activities of Seppo Knuuttila, the Finnish scientist arrested on April 16 and held for two days near a fertilizer plant on the border between the Russia and Estonia.
Knuuttila was seized by the local FSB (state security organization) patrolling the border region for allegedly straying from a pre-agreed route and entering the exclusion zone around the fertilizer plant itself.
Knuuttila denies any wrong-doing and claims that he was held for two days with no food or water and then had his laptop with all his data confiscated for “security” reasons.
It appears that over-zealous local FSB commanders arrested Knuuttila as he followed a route he had used several times before. Unfortunately for him, the region is very sensitive for Russians as there is a border, a nuclear power facility and the fertilizer plant all in the same area.
The Finnish scientist was conducting measurements downstream from the fertilizer plant to understand the amount of pollution passing into the river and the Baltic Sea. Finland is one of several countries around the Baltic that have put pressure on Russia to reduce the damage caused through pollution.
Despite placing the blame for his arrest and detention firmly on Knuuttila himself, Moscow has stressed that it is keen to continue with the water-sampling program. The Kingisepp fertilizer plant sits on the Luga River, which empties straight into the Baltic Sea, but most of the Leningrad Region anti-pollution efforts are concentrated on the upper reaches of the Neva River that flows through St. Petersburg.
Finnish commentators believe Knuuttila has unwittingly stumbled into an unfortunate holdover from the Cold War, in which a simple fertilizer plant is accorded “sensitive” status and requires protection from paramilitary units of the FSB.
The Moscow government has apparently seen the opportunity in this to seize control of the testing program that is causing it great embarrassment.
Analysts from the Baltic Sea Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) are now concerned that responsibility for testing emissions of nitrates and other pollutants from the Kingisepp plant will pass to Russian scientists, who will be susceptible to pressure from their government.