MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Investigative Committee said Monday that Greenpeace’s attempt to scale a Russian oil rig in the Arctic in protest against drilling in the region earlier this month had posed a threat to the platform’s staff and constituted a crime.
The environmental organization's icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, violated the 500-meter safety zone around the rig, and the crew committed “unlawful activity” by trying to scale the platform, ignoring orders to desist and ramming a border guard boat, the committee said.
Greenpeace denied the accusations in the press release, saying the ship did not violate the safety zone and that the group’s inflatable boats had posed no threat to the platform, which is made to withstand icebergs.
The environmental group also reiterated that its attempt to scale the rig was a peaceful protest, like last year, when six protesters spent 15 hours suspended from the platform and eventually left without either side of the standoff complaining of any damage sustained.
However, the investigators said in an online statement that they “viewed these actions as a real threat to the personal safety of the platform staff and property, as well as constituting resistance to law enforcement officers.”
The committee did not specify the charges that could be pressed against the multinational crew of 30, all of whom are in Russian custody while an investigation is underway, but added that “allegedly peaceful aims” were no justification for “such criminal offenses.” The committee said earlier it was investigating the activists for piracy, punishable by up to 15 years behind bars in Russia.
On Monday, Greenpeace began appealing the detentions of the Arctic Sunrise crew members, a group spokesman told RIA Novosti. The crew comprises nationals of 19 countries, including Argentina, Finland, Sweden, UK, Ukraine and the United States.
The Arctic Sunrise was stormed by Russian border guards on Sept. 19 in the wake of the protest at the platform, owned by a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, in the Pechora Sea. All those on board – including a Ukrainian cook and a Russian freelance photographer covering the protest for Russian media – have been ordered by courts to be kept in custody until late November. Ukraine said Monday it will hand a diplomatic note to Russia to oppose the arrest of its citizen.
Greenpeace claimed Monday that Finnish crew member Sini Saarela, who has no thyroid gland, was running out of medicine for her condition, but the Russian prison service denied the claim.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic because they say that it is currently impossible to sufficiently clean up potential oil spills in the region, and that such drilling cannot be economically viable without state subsidies.