Russia to Charge Greenpeace Activists Over Arctic Protest Act

Russia plans to charge Greenpeace activists over the boarding of an oil platform to campaign against drilling in the Arctic, investigators said.

The ecological campaigners endangered the security of workers and property at OAO Gazprom’s oil rig and resisted Coast Guard officials, the Investigative Committee in Moscow said on its website today. “Charges will be filed shortly,” the law-enforcement agency said, without specifying further.

Russian investigators have opened a criminal case against 30 Greenpeace activists from 18 countries for piracy, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. They were remanded in custody at the end of last week for two months in the port city of Murmansk.

“This case is unpredictable and it’s hard to make any forecasts,” Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy program of Greenpeace’s Russian branch, said today by phone. “But they seem to be backing away from the piracy charge and desperately looking for something else to accuse the activists of.”

Greenpeace protesters scaled a Gazprom rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. The state-owned company has accused the environmental organization of endangering the lives of workers on the rig who were underwater at the time of the protest action.

Russia’s Coast Guard boarded Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters on Sept. 19, a day after two protesters scaled the rig, and towed the vessel to Murmansk. 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 detained 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.

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