Anti-Drilling Activists: Fired on, Detained and Now Charged With Piracy

Thirty members of Greenpeace International are being held in Russia, pending further investigation.
Activists in Paris protest outside the Russian embassy, demanding freedom for detained Greenpeace members. (Photo: Thomas Samson/Getty Images)
Sep 28, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon writes about all things ocean.

Things have gone from bad to worse for the 30 Greenpeace activists detained by the Russian Coast Guard last week while protesting the expansion of oil drilling in the Siberian Arctic.

After scuffling with the Coast Guard as they attempted to climb onto the oil rig nine days ago, the activists’ ship, Arctic Sunrise, was seized by heavily armed commandos who boarded its deck by sliding down ropes from helicopters.

Towed to Murmansk, four days away, the 28 Greenpeace International activists, plus a freelance photographer and a videographer, were marched into a Russian court in handcuffs.

Inside the Lenin District Court, they were placed in a cage and, according to a Greenpeace press release, provided with inadequately skilled translators.

Twenty-two members were sentenced to two months in custody pending an investigation into piracy charges; eight others were detained for three days pending a new hearing.

On Friday, September 27, Greenpeace International’s executive director Kumi Naidoo addressed the conflict from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“These detentions are like the Russian oil industry itself, a relic from an earlier era. Our peaceful activists are in prison tonight for shining a light on Gazprom’s recklessness. The Arctic is melting before our eyes, and these brave activists stand in defiance of those who wish to exploit this unfolding crisis to drill for more oil.”

“I stand alongside millions of people around the world in solidarity with the Arctic 30. Their actions are justified by the abject failure of governments around the world to protect their people from the threat of climate change. We will not be intimidated, we will appeal these detentions, and together we will prevail.”

Among the 18 nationalities in custody is the American captain of the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship which was sunk by French government bombs when it was at dock in New Zealand in 1985. A full list of those being held can be found on the Greenpeace website.

Since the seizure of the Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace reports that more than a half million people have written to Russian embassies around the world, demanding the activists and their ship be set free.