Greenpeace activists face piracy charges in Russia after failed Arctic oil rig stunt
"On the background of what recently happened in Kenya, it could have been anyone," Putin says
(Updated, Sept. 25, 8:03 a.m.)
Russia’s Investigative Committee says it will press charges against as many as 30 Greenpeace activists who took part last week in an attempt to scale an oil exploration platform off northwestern Russia.
“It should be noted that all persons who attacked the [oil] platform, regardless of their citizenship, will be brought to criminal responsibility,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a Sept. 24 statement.
A charge of piracy can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail and a substantial fine.
“When a foreign vessel full of electronic technical equipment of unknown purpose and a group of people calling themselves members of an environmental rights organization try nothing less than to take a drilling platform by storm, logical doubts arise about their intentions,” Markin said. “Such activities not only infringe on the sovereignty of a state, but might pose a threat to the environmental security of the whole region.
Speaking Sept. 25 at an Arctic Forum in Salekhard, a city in northwestern Russia, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he supported the area of the Greenpeace activists.
“I don’t know what really happened, but it is obvious that they are not pirates. But formally they tried to take over the platform,” Putin is quoted as saying by the Barents Observer.
“Our law enforcement organs, our border guards did not understand who were trying to take over the platform, pretending to be Greenpeace. On the background of what recently happened in Kenya, it could have been anyone.”
“Anything could have happened, like an operator error or a technical malfunction. There was a danger to lives and people’s health. Are such PR stunts really worth the possibilities of serious consequences?”
Greenpeace protesters, who tried to scale the Prirazlomnoye oil platform Sept. 18, were arrested by the Russian Coast Guard.
Coast Guard officials later boarded Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise and detained everyone on board.
The Dutch-flagged icebreaker is now at a port about 20 kilometres from the Russian Arctic city of Murmansk.
The Investigative Committee it planned to question all those who participated in scaling of the oil platform and keep “more active” among them in custody.
On Sept. 23, environmental groups called for the release of those on board the Arctic Sunrise.
Greenpeace International lawyers called Sept. 24 for “immediate access to the 30 activists who have been held for over four days without legal or consular assistance.”
“This protest was entirely safe, it was peaceful, and did not warrant the reaction we’ve seen from the Russian authorities. It’s now four days after our ship was boarded. We have not been offered a legal basis for the raid and our activists have been denied any contact with lawyers or consular officials,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo in a news release. “Our activists are motivated only by a passionate belief in the need to protect the Arctic from dangerous oil drilling and climate change. We demand their immediate release.”
Greenpeace is now asking its supporters to send a letter to the Russian Embassy “to free our activists and end Arctic drilling for good.”