Russia has seized the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and towed it into the port of Murmansk after Greenpeace personnel “attacked” Russia’s “Prirazlomnaya” oil platform in the Pechora Sea. The thirty people who were aboard the diesel powered ship are being held in several different pretrial detention areas while Russian authorities conduct a criminal investigation.
Last week, two members of the Greenpeace crew began to board the platform using ropes while others buzzed the platform in inflatable boats. Workers on the platform repelled the boarders using fire hoses until Russian security personnel fired warning shots from machine guns into the sea at which time Greenpeace surrendered.
Arctic Sunrise is the same Greenpeace ship upon which CFACT hung a banner rechristening the vessel a“ Ship of Lies” in 2009 during COP 15 in Copenhagen. CFACT’s expressed its opinion about ongoing campaigns by Greenpeace which use propaganda tactics to distort the truth. CFACT did not employ Greenpeace’s signature lawless tactics, but rather offered the crew donuts and then hung the banner while they enjoyed their snack. View video here.
The Russians rounded up the Greenpeace crew using inflatable boats of their own. They then towed Arctic Sunrise into the northern port city of Murmansk. The 30 people aboard Arctic Sunrise hail from a variety of nations including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Turkey, Finland, Switzerland, Poland and Sweden.
At first the passengers and crew were detained aboard ship in port. However, Russian officials later removed everyone from the ship and they are currently being held in multiple different pre-trial detention centers while officials conduct a criminal investigation.
“All those who carried out the attack on the platform will face criminal charges, regardless of their nationality, ” according to Russian investigator Vladimir Markin. “It’s hard to believe that the so-called activists did not know that the platform is an installation with a high hazard level, and any unauthorized actions on it can lead to an accident, which would not only endanger the people aboard it but also the ecology.” Arctic Sunrise Markin said, was “packed with electronics of unclear use.”
Russian authorities at first seemed determined to charge those who carried out what they are calling an “attack” upon the platform with piracy which carries a sentence of 10-15 years.
Later, Russian President Vladimir Putin discounted the likelihood of prosecuting the Greenpeace boarding party as pirates saying during an Arctic forum in Russia, “It is perfectly obvious that they are no pirates. But they made a deliberate attempt to seize the oil platform. Our law-enforcement agents, our border guards didn’t know who was trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace. Especially against the background of the bloody events that were taking place in Kenya – that could have been anything.”
The Moscow Times reports:
While it is unlikely that piracy charges would hold up in court, the crew could face prosecution for illegal trespassing, said Viktoria Zhdanova, a senior lawyer at Inmarine, a St. Petersburg-based legal firm specializing in maritime law.” “Zhdanova said that she saw no legal grounds to prosecute the crew for piracy but that the charge of illegally trespassing a border was feasible, since the Russian rig is considered Russian territory even when in international waters… Greenpeace said earlier that its ship had been in international waters, meaning it could not face punishment under Russian law. Investigators disagreed, however, saying the Arctic Sunrise was seized in Russia’s exclusive economic zone.
The incident at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform is by no means the first time that Greenpeace has raised the ire of a nation’s government. Most famously, in 1985 French special forces sunk the original Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand. However, in this case, Greenpeace workers were caught in the act of what, while may not hold up as piracy, does seem a clear violation on Russian and International law. If Russian authorities decide to hold the full weight of the law against them, the punishment for the Greenpeace boarders could be severe. Whether and how severely those responsible will ultimately be punished, will in the end most likely be decided by politics and public relations, pitting the vastly wealthy and connected radical green NGO against the increasingly autocratic Russia.
The outcome may well hinge on whether top Russian authorities ultimately determine defense of their rights and deterrence against future “attacks,” or warm public relations to better serve their needs of the moment.
In CFACT’s opinion what Greenpeace did was not an act of piracy, however, Greenpeace should cease employing tactics which endanger the lives and property of their own people and certainly of innocent people at work. Knocking off the propaganda would be a bonus.