Environmental groups want Russia to release Greenpeace activists
Russia says scaling of Arctic oil platform resembles "piracy"
WWF and more than 40 other environmental groups have called for the immediate release of the 30 crew members of Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise, which is still being detained by Russian authorities after a protest against Gazprom’s Arctic offshore oil project in the Pechora Sea off northwestern Russia.
“Greenpeace’s peaceful protest in the Arctic was intended to bring public attention to Gazprom’s truly risky and environmentally unsound project, Prirazlomnoye. Gazprom refused to respond to concerns about the project raised by Greenpeace, WWF and Russian experts, and this escalation is a consequence. WWF calls on Russian authorities to release Greenpeace’s crew members immediately,” said Jim Leape, director general of WWF International. “It’s deeply perverse to be developing oil projects in the Arctic when our addiction to fossil fuels is already causing major upheavals in that delicate ecosystem.”
The WWF and other environmental groups have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to release a Greenpeace icebreaker and its crew who have been in custody since Sept. 19.
Greenpeace protesters, who tried to scale the Prirazlomnoye oil platform in the Russian Arctic Sept. 18, were then arrested by the Russian Coast Guard. Coast Guard officials later boarded Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise and detained the crew.
The impounded vessel is on its way to Murmansk.
The regional unit of Russia’s Investigative Committee has said that it may bring charges of piracy against the crew — a charge which can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail and a substantial fine.
Kremlin administrative chief Sergei Ivanov said Sept. 21 that the Greenpeace activists had acted “too radically.”
Greenpeace is a well-known organization, he said, but he believed trying to scale the oil platform resembled “piracy Somali-style.”
Not so, says Greenpeace.
“The suggestion that Greenpeace International engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation. The activists climbed Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests,” said Greenpeace International lawyer Jasper Teulings.
“Over a full day after our protest the Russian Coast Guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever. This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment. We will contest these allegations strongly and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship.”