The head of Greenpeace was in Finland yesterday to seek support for his efforts to free activists currently detained on piracy charges in Russia.
He met with foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, who confirmed Finland would work together with other countries whose citizens are in jail.
Last month Greenpeace activists, including one Finn, tried to board a Gazprom drilling platform in the Pechora Sea. Their actions landed them in a Murmansk jail facing criminal charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Their organisation’s executive director Kumi Naidoo was in Finland on Tuesday to plead for more help in efforts to free them. He had clear advice for Finnish politicians.
“They should do everything they can to put diplomatic pressure on Russian authorities to release these activists at least on bail,” said Tuomioja.
His message was well received. Foreign secretary Erkki Tuomioja said that his department would join efforts made by 18 other countries whose citizens were arrested.
Piracy charges a surprise
The activists’ situation is exceptional—a point driven home by Naidoo.
“We never anticipated piracy charges,” admitted Naidoo. “If governments think they will intimidate us by disproportionate excessive use of force against us I invite them to think again.”
The South African has firsthand experience of the effect of sporting boycotts on the apartheid regime, and similar measures could yet be used against Russia.
“Who is this current situation serving?” asked Naidoo “It’s not serving the Russian government, it’s embarrassing them internationally, I’m under pressure to call a boycott of the Sochi Olympics.”
Greenpeace believes that diplomatic pressure may help see the activists released before their two-month period of investigative detention is over. If that does not happen, escalation is possible.