Greenpeace vowed to mount worldwide protests after Russia detained 30 activists from 18 countries over the boarding of an Arctic oil platform.
Investigators have opened a criminal case against the activists for piracy, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. Twenty-two campaigners were remanded in custody for two months and another eight were ordered to be held for 72 hours pending a new hearing, according to court rulings yesterday in the port city of Murmansk. The detention orders would be appealed, Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said in an e-mailed statement.
“I stand alongside millions of people around the world in solidarity with the Arctic 30,” Naidoo said. “Their actions are justified by the abject failure of governments around the world to protect their people from the threat of climate change. We will not be intimidated, we will appeal these detentions, and together we will prevail.”
A crackdown by Putin on the opposition and civil society after winning a third Kremlin term last year has provoked criticism in Europe and the U.S. Ties with the U.S. are also frayed over support for opposing sides in the 2 1/2-year conflict in Syria and Russia’s decision to grant asylum to former American security contractor Edward Snowden.
Russia’s Coast Guard boarded Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters on Sept. 19, a day after two protesters scaled an OAO Gazprom (GAZP) rig in the Arctic and towed the vessel to Murmansk. State-run Gazprom plans to become the first Russian company to start producing oil in Arctic waters at the Prirazlomnoye deposit as soon as this year. Greenpeace activists scaled the same drilling platform in 2012.
The activists include citizens of the U.S., Finland, Argentina, Switzerland, the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Sweden, according to Greenpeace.
The captain of Arctic Sunrise, American Peter Wilcox, was in charge of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior when it was sunk in Auckland in 1985 by a bomb planted by the French intelligence service.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 25 that while the Greenpeace campaigners “clearly” aren’t pirates, they violated international law by trying to seize a drilling platform and alarmed officials who didn’t know who was attempting to take over the facility.
Gazprom has accused Greenpeace of endangering the lives of workers on the rig who were underwater at the time of the protest action.
Several countries sent diplomats to Murmansk to assist their nationals and the Netherlands asked Russia for an immediate release of the Greenpeace activists.
To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at email@example.com