Russia Drops Greenpeace Piracy Charges in Favor of ‘Hooliganism’

Russia dropped piracy charges against Greenpeace activists who protested against Arctic drilling and changed them to hooliganism, the Investigative Committee said on its website.

Investigators didn’t exclude possible charges against some of the activists for assaulting a law enforcement agent, according to the statement posted today.

Two protesters scaled OAO Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya 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, where 28 activists as well as a photographer and videographer were detained and charged with piracy. They could have face as long as 15 years in prison if convicted, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement at the time.

The new charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail, Greenpeace said today in a separate statement. The activists “are no more hooligans than they were pirates,” said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia. “We will contest the trumped up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations. They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality.”

On Oct. 1, activists delayed a Champions League soccer game between Basel and Germany’s Schalke 04, sponsored by Gazprom, unfurling a protest banner. Demonstrations were staged outside Russian diplomatic missions and Gazprom offices in 30 countries, including Brazil, France and the U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that discussions about the ship had been held with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

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