We had an exclusive interview with Dr Alan Flowers, the leading British scientist expelled from Belarus after being put on the KGB's "forbidden persons list." His crime? Helping the world understand the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Is there any hard evidence to support the allegation that there was cloud seeding?
DR ALAN FLOWERS
Since 1992, I have been visiting Belarus. In the very first months in meeting with the former Soviet scientists and the scientists of the new Belarus, they put to us that there had been these events in 1986, and my research group did proceed to look for some of the chemical materials, such as sodium iodide. That we did not actually find. The quantities that would have been distributed would be so diluted it was not surprising we didn't find it. The harder evidence does come from contemporary eyewitnesses. I for the last eight years have been in this area working every summer. We meet many of the local people who were present at the time. There is a considerable amount of eyewitness evidence to aerial activity. The description of the clouds, the word "purple" is often used in the description of the clouds, and also rocket activity. Indeed, in one of my early lectures about the Chernobyl events, I was actually interrupted by a Belarusian student who wondered why at that time I was not referencing the cloud seeding and why I said it was unlikely that there was cloud seeding. This student, when I questioned him why was he so sure about it, he simply answered because he had seen the rocket activity and there was very unusual aerial activity at the time.
So you are pretty sure it happened?
I would move to the side of high probability that it happened. I do reference this in my publications because there can only be one of two things happened. There was either natural rain or there was artificial rain. In my publications, I tend to include the statement that this was artificial rain. I have never received any denial to that extent.
You have received no denial and you say it quite publicly, so why do you think that you have been thrown out of Belarus?
In your preamble, the reference to democracy development is, I am sure, far the more likely. My first expulsion papers we now know were prepared in February, some five months before my current research visit to Belarus, and these papers followed a November democracy development meeting in Minsk that did meet with some obstruction by the authorities. I have been advised by the rector of the University in Minsk, the International Sakharov Environmental University, that my activities with the European Youth Parliament and with Vision, a Nordic youth democracy organisation, that these activities haven't met fully with the approval of the authorities.
Do you think outside agencies, particularly the European Union, are doing enough in Belarus?
The EU is active with some cross-border co-operation activities. Certainly, the British Government has very strongly supported youth democracy activities. However, where we could be more active is with the return of a British Council office to Belarus. Uniquely, Belarus is the one country in Europe where there is no specific academic contact point. There is no specific British Council office. In that respect, I think Britain could be doing a little bit more with contacts with Belarus.
But no return for you?
Well, I hope, like the British Council, that myself and the British Council will be returning sooner rather than later!
Thank you very much, Dr Flowers.
This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.