On September 18, Greenpeace activists were involved in a peaceful protest at Russia’s state-owned Gazprom oil rig, which is poised to become the first to produce oil from the Arctic. Two activists were arrested on the rig. More than 24 hours later, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded Greenpeace’s ship, Arctic Sunrise, and arrested the remainder of the group.
The 30 activists were initially detained on piracy charges, which would have carried a maximum sentence of 15 years. The Russian authorities have since replaced that charge with another – hooliganism – which carries up to 7 years in jail.
In response to the charges, Ben Ayliffe from Greenpeace International said:
“The Arctic 30 are innocent of all charges. There can be no justification for locking them up in a cell in Murmansk. This was an entirely peaceful protest in international waters to shine a light on Gazprom’s reckless Arctic oil drilling plans. Eleven warning shots were fired across the Arctic Sunrise, bullets were fired into the water next to the protesters, they were threatened with guns and knives and detained on trumped up charges to defend Gazprom’s oil interests. Who are the real hooligans here?”
Following Greenpeace protests, the activists are normally detained overnight by authorities and then released. They are happy to receive the added publicity. For an activist group known as unarmed and peaceful, the charges have outraged many.
Protests to free the Arctic 30 are taking place in many countries. Actor Jude Law participated in a protest in London.
“I’ve been a supporter of Greenpeace for many many years,” says Law, “and I’ve been involved with them for the last couple of years. I’m always full of admiration of how they draw attention to what I see as international environmental issues. This particular one drilling in the arctic is a problem that we all know has to be confronted and it has to be resolved. The clue is in the name. They deal with green issues and they do it peacefully.”
Sign the petition to Russia’s U.S. ambassador demanding the release of the activists and the withdrawal of the Russian Coast Guard from the Greenpeace ship.