UPDATE: An FSB spokesman confirmed to RIA Novosti on Tuesday that the border guards asked the Greenpeace ship to leave the Northern Sea Route, but denied they threatened to attack it if it did not comply.
MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – A Greenpeace ship had to abandon its peaceful protest in the Arctic after Russian border guards threatened to shoot it, the environmental group said Monday.
“Border guards warned that they would use force and firepower if needed in case the [Greenpeace] icebreaker [Arctic Sunrise] did not leave the area of the Northern Sea Route,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
The Russian administration that controls the sea route had prohibited the Arctic Sunrise from entering the passage over paperwork technicalities. But the ship ignored the ban, denouncing it as illegal.
Greenpeace said Monday that the ban and the expulsion were violations of international maritime legislation.
No one was able to comment on the matter at the press office of the Federal Security Service, which controls the Russian border guards.
The Arctic Sunrise was trying to protest the operation of oil exploration vessels by Rosneft in the Kara Sea. The Russian state-run company plans to drill for oil on the Arctic shelf in partnership with ExxonMobil, a plan vehemently opposed by environmentalists who say that no technologies are currently available for cleaning up oil spills in northern seas.
This is not the first time a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic borders on legality. Last year, six of the group’s activists scaled a Gazprom oil rig in the Pechora Sea, halting the rig’s operations for hours and only retreating after workers started to throw heavy objects and launch ice-cold water at them. No legal repercussions followed.