No peace for Greenpeace

The Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" was detained in the Pechora Sea on September 18. (Photo: Will Rose/Greenpeace)

According to local observers in Murmansk, the case with the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists that have been in prison for seven weeks is turning into something of a tragic farce.


The Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights is going to request that the Investigative Committee changes the measure of restraint imposed on the Greenpeace activists who were detained in Murmansk over the Gazprom drilling platform raid in the Pechora Sea, Head of the Council Mikhail Fedotov said at a news conference on Friday, according to the council’s web site. What the Council for Human Rights will propose as alternative measures is still unknown.

In the meantime, the two journalists and 28 activists and crew members of the “Arctic Sunrise” are locked up in a pre-trial center in Murmansk. As they have been for the last seven weeks.  

On Tuesday a source in the Investigative Committee said that the prisoners are going to be transferred to St.Petersburg this week. Greenpeace has only received information about this by foreign diplomats, whose citizens are among the arrested. The Federal Penitentiary Service denies commenting on the plans and does not answer to any questions from the organization’s lawyers, Murmansk-based news portal B-port writes.

“The lawyers have repeatedly tried to get information from the Investigative Committee on when the transfer will take place, but they deny answering any questions. We have to follow the situation through indirect sources”, Maria Favorskaya from Greenpeace says to B-port.

The whole crew, including the mechanic and the cook, were first charged with of piracy. Later this was said to have been replaced with charges of hooliganism, which according to Russian law have a maximum punishment of seven years. The new charges were presented last week, but the charges of piracy have still not been cancelled, Favorskaya says.

“The investigators have not yet informed the lawyers about the wording of the charges, which is a violation of the right to defend an arrested”, Favorskaya says. “To put two criminal charges for trying to hang a banner is totally absurd”, she adds.

Two Greenpeace members climbed Gazprom’s platform Prirazlomnaya in the Pechora Sea on September 18, trying to hang a banner saying “Save the Arctic” on the side of the platform when they were arrested by the FSB.

Charges of resisting law officers
On Thursday a spokesman for the Investigative Committee, said some of the activists would also face charges of resisting law officers, which carries a maximum five-year term.

“We are very interested in seeing the wording [of these charges], since the Investigative Committee makes a lot of loud announcements that later are neither confirmed nor made valid”, Favorskaya says to B-port. “We have not seen any documents yet.”

Greenpeace complaint on inspection postponed
Greenpeace, on the other hand, has filed a complaint against the district court in Murmansk that initially approved the inspection of the “Arctic Sunrise”, claiming that it was an illegal entering of a foreign vessel in international waters. The complaint was supposed to be heard in the Murmansk Oblast court on Thursday, but has been postponed until November 12, Greenpeace Russia writes on its Twitter account. 

David Cameron calls charges ‘excessive’
British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging Vladimir Putin to make sure that the Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Russia can come home. The Prime Minister spoke to the Russian president earlier this week and told him that the protesters are “protesters rather than hooligans”, Cameron’s official spokesman said.

“I totally understand that countries have to have some quite tough rules to stop people invading oil platforms, but I have appealed to Vladimir Putin to try to de-escalate this and make sure that these people can go home.”

Cameron’s spokesman said that Putin “understands” the British Prime Minister’s concerns and the pair had agreed to stay in touch.

“This is now in the hands of the judicial authorities in Russia,” the spokesman said, according to The Telegraph. “We have made the representations that we have and we are going to use our diplomatic influence to continue ensuring that the Russian authorities understand the importance that we attach to resolving this.” 

Greenpeace meeting ‘not on Putin’s schedule’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has no plan to meet executive director of Greenpeace Kumi Naidoo. “There is no such event on (Putin’s) schedule,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Global Times. Naidoo had written a letter to the Russian president with a request to meet and discuss the case of the “Arctic Sunrise”.