Greenpeace protesters arrested in arctic

by Zoe.Papadatos on September 25, 2013 - 3:15pm

On September 18th (2013), 30 Greenpeace protesters were arrested by Russian coastguards after two of them climbed onto the Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform. The protest was to stop the production of the first oil from the Arctic waters. The protesters are being detained in Murmansk and may carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail.


On Tuesday, Russia announced that they had opened a piracy investigation on the Greenpeace crew. A spokesman for the Investigative Committee has stated that the Greenpeace ship was “filled with electronic equipment of unclear purpose” and claims that the protesters were involved in espionage. They also claim to have seen a bomb on one of the protesters. It was later revealed as a safety pod. Investigators state that the protesters’ acts were illegal and dangerous to themselves, the crew, and the environment they were devoted to protecting. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, says that the protesters were not committing acts of piracy, but they were breaking international law. Putin says that the charges of piracy could be dropped. The spokesman for the Investigative Committee states that the charges could be changed if new evidence was brought to light.


I can’t confirm with certainty that the Greenpeace members were peaceful in their protests.  However, I suspect they were since the Russian Investigators’ charges are dubious. It seems like the investigators are trying to find any excuse as to why they arrested the protesters. For example, “electronic equipment of unclear purpose”? They saw a fluorescent tube (which was a safety pod used by crew to protect themselves against things like water cannons) and thought it might have been a bomb. I find it hard to believe that they could mistake this equipment for anything else than what it actually is (certainly not a bomb!) Furthermore, investigators are changing the charges which leads me to believe that the “piracy” and “crime” was not as black and white as they’d like people to believe. As for the charges, in article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code, piracy can only be committed against a vessel, not an oil platform, and only applies when seeking with violence or threats to seize property. The same law is written in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, article 101. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:

"Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world have failed to respond to dire scientific warnings about the consequences of climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere. Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit in international law. We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists.”

I believe that Greenpeace should continue to protest environmentally detrimental projects such as this one. It angers me when the Russian investigators say that the actions of the protesters were dangerous to themselves, the workers, and the environment because they are the ones putting everyone at long term risk by digging up oil (which can spill) in order to burn it (which causes global warming).


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