The Russian government announced on Wednesday that they would be charging 14 Greenpeace activists with piracy for their activism in the Arctic. Two weeks ago, a group of 30 people staged a protest aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise while sailing near a Russian drilling rig in the Pechora Sea. After the activists boarded the Prirazlomnaya platform and raised banners, the Russian coast guard seized the ship at gunpoint in international waters and arrested the passengers.
After the Greenpeace activists were taken into custody, the Arctic Sunrise was towed to the nearby city of or Murmansk. Before the ship arrived on September 24, over 50 Russian environmental groups had signed a letter to President Putin decrying their treatment.
According to the Washington Post, Russian prosecutors have declined to comment on the case until all 30 activists have been indicted. Russian law defines piracy as an assault on a moving ship – since the rig is stationary, supporters of the Arctic Sunrise believe that the charges should not apply. They assert that the punishment, which could carry up to 15 years in prison, is an attempt to intimidate those opposed to Arctic drilling.
“Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable. It is utterly irrational, it is designed to intimidate and silence us, but we will not be cowed.” stated Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo.
He further accused the Russian government of treating the protesters in the most egregious manner since the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985. Putin had previously said that he did not believe the crew were pirates, but they may have broken international law. Now the remainder of the team awaits a sentence as the battle for the Arctic rages on.
Images via Greenpeace International