(Updates with Eni letter to Gazprom starting in sixth paragraph.)
By Henry Meyer
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to get piracy charges dropped against Greenpeace activists who boarded an oil platform to protest Arctic drilling.
“We are confident that you share our desire to respect the right to non-violent protest,” the signatories said, according to a text of a letter e-mailed by Greenpeace today. “As you know, the Greenpeace activists were unarmed and used only peaceful means to demonstrate their opposition to the oil drilling operations threatening the Arctic.”
While the Russian leader had “great respect” for the Nobel laureates, he’s unable to influence the judicial process, the RIA Novosti state news service cited Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying.
The 28 activists and two journalists from 18 countries face as long as 15 years in jail for alleged piracy during their Arctic protest. Two Greenpeace protesters scaled OAO Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. A day later Russia’s Coast Guard boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters and towed the vessel to Murmansk.
The 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners include South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and others from countries including Iran, Yemen and Argentina.
Gazprom today rebuffed a separate appeal by Italy’s Eni SpA to help free the Greenpeace activists, who include Italian Cristian D’Alessandro. The chief executive officer of Eni, Paolo Scaroni, wrote to Gazprom counterpart Alexey Miller, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg News.
“Of course, I understand that Russian authorities are responsible for the decision to press charges against the activists, and that Gazprom has no role in the investigation,” Scaroni said. “However -- given your great standing -- an appeal for clemency on your part may benefit those imprisoned, and would support the energy industry in establishing a transparent and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.”
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the letter had been received but Miller hadn’t responded. “This is nothing to do with us,” he said by text.
Greenpeace threatened last week to hold European protests against Gazprom and its partners. The Russian state gas exporter provides a quarter of Europe’s gas, including to companies such as Eni and Germany’s RWE AG.