Decision by Russian officials is direct ‘assault on peaceful protest,’ say campaigners
Of the thirty Greenpeace activists taken into custody last week over their peaceful protest against arctic drilling by oil giant Gazprom, five of them on Wednesday have been officially charged with piracy by Russian officials.
The news sparked a harsh reaction from the global environmental group, who say their protest against a large drilling platform in the Pechora Sea was designed to show that the plundering of the pristine and fragile arctic regions by the world’s largest fossil fuel companies would not go unchallenged. The charge of piracy, according to the group, is nothing less than an assault on the right to voice dissent.
“A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.
“It is an extreme and disproportionate charge,” he said.
In all, 30 individuals—28 Greenpeace activists, one freelance photographer, and one freelance videographer—were arrested by Russian authorities following the incident on September 18.
As Reuters reports:
The federal Investigative Committee said authorities had begun charging 30 people arrested after the protest last month, in which a Greenpeace icebreaker approached the Prirazlomnaya platform and two activists tried to scale the rig – a crucial part of Russia’s effort to mine Arctic resources.
By midday [Wednesday], five people had been charged, Greenpeace said – Brazilian crew member Ana Paula Alminhana, Russian activist Roman Dolgov, Finnish activist Sini Saarela, British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan, and Dima Litvinov, an activist with Swedish and U.S. citizenship.
Additionally, in response to the latest developments, Greenpeace released new photographs from its ship, the Arctic Sunrise, showing the moments when a Russian helicopter descended and armed soldiers took possession of the crew and the vessel.
“I ask people to look at those photographs and decide if the peaceful campaigners with their arms raised, with guns pointed at their chests, could ever be described as pirates,” said Naidoo.
Dubbing those arrested the “Arctic 30” and urging supporters to use the hashtag #FreeTheArctic30, Greenpeace has launched a global campaign aimed at winning their full exoneration and immediate release.