Russian investigators said Tuesday that they will file piracy charges against Greenpeace activists who tried to climb onto an offshore drilling platform in the Arctic owned by the state-controlled gas company Gazprom.
The activists are on a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, that was seized last week by the Russian Coast Guard and towed Tuesday into a port near Murmansk.
It was unclear how many of the 30 activists from 18 countries face piracy charges, which carry a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $15,500). The Investigative Committee, Russia’s federal investigative agency, said it would question all those who participated in the protest and detain the “more active” among them.
Two activists tried to climb onto the Prirazlomnaya platform on Thursday and others assisted from small inflatable boats. The Greenpeace protest was aimed at calling attention to the environmental risks of drilling for oil in Arctic waters.
“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,” investigative committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement.
He said the activists posed a danger to the work of the oil platform. “Such activities not only infringe on the sovereignty of a state, but might pose a threat to the environmental security of the whole region,” Markin said.
Anchored near Murmansk
Greenpeace insists that Russia had no right under international law to board its ship. One activist told The Associated Press that the Coast Guard officers hit and kicked some activists when they stormed the vessel.
The Arctic Sunrise was anchored Tuesday in a small bay near Severomorsk, the home port of Russia’s Northern Fleet, 25 kilometres north of Murmansk.
Greenpeace said the activists come from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.
Arctic Campaign co-ordinator Christy Ferguson said Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., and a man from Montreal whose name was not released were arrested when Russian coast guard officers boarded their vessel, which Greenpeace says was in international waters.
A Greenpeace spokesperson in Toronto said a number of diplomats, including one from Canada, are heading to the Greenpeace ship to provide consular services.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC