Russia to boycott court over Greenpeace vessel

The office building of Russia's Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow says Russia will not attend when the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea starts hearings in the “Arctic Sunrise” case.


“The Russian side has informed the Netherlands and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that it doesn’t accept the arbitration procedure in the Arctic Sunrise case, and is not planning to take part in the tribunals,” reads the note from the Foreign Ministry published on Wednesday.

The lawsuit, lodged by The Netherlands, claims that Russia has violated the right to freedom of navigation by boarding the Greenpeace vessel in Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, but outside territorial waters. “Arctic Sunrise” and its crew were arrested in September after protesting Gazprom’s oil-drilling at Prirazlomnaya field in the Pechora Sea. The vessel was taken to Murmansk where the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance photographers are held in pre-trial detention charged with piracy.

“Arctic Sunrise” is Dutch-flagged.

It is expected that the Hamburg-based tribunal will hear the case within some few weeks. The Netherlands has also started proceedings against Moscow in the form of an arbitration process in hope to have the activists and vessel released from Murmansk. 

In the note, Moscow argues it will not accept this case in the Hamburg court because the Greenpeace activists violated Russian law on the exclusive economic zone and Russia’s continental shelf. 

The Foreign Ministry insists that Russia is not obliged to recognize the authority of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, saying Russia does not have to participate in disputes that concern “sovereign rights” and “jurisdiction.”