MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday lashed out at the Netherlands over its failure to stop the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, a day after the Dutch Foreign Minister said he views Russia’s actions – seizing the ship and crew – as illegal.
The Russian side made repeated attempts to contact their Dutch counterparts “to intervene in the vessel’s illegal activities” over the last year and a half, Russian Foreign Ministry deputy head Alexei Meshkov told RIA Novosti.
“Unfortunately, this was not done. Therefore we have significantly more questions for the Dutch side than they can have for us,” RIA Novosti cites Meshkov as saying, adding that “everything that happened with Arctic Sunrise is pure provocation.”
On Friday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry slammed Russia’s actions as “illegal,” asked Russia “to release the ship and the crew” and said that the Netherlands had launched legal proceedings under a United Nations convention on maritime law to secure their release.
Russian border guards seized the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, on September 19 following an attempt by several activists to climb up the state-owned rig, the first commercial offshore oil well in the Arctic.
All 30 people aboard the ship – including the crew, activists and two freelance journalists – are in Russian custody and were charged earlier this week with piracy, punishable with up to 15 years in prison.
The Netherlands is not the only country to raise the issue with Russia formally. On Saturday, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov on the sidelines of the APEC forum in Bali, Indonesia. “I registered our concern about the charges and also our desire to ensure that he [Australian Greenpeace activist Colin Russel] afforded full due legal process and consular assistance,” Australian media cited her as saying.
Greenpeace is planning protests in 45 countries on Saturday over the arrests. The group maintains that an offshore spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up using today’s technologies.
The Gazprom oil rig, situated on the vast Prirazlomnoye deposit, is due to start commercial extraction by the end of the year, its operator said Friday.
Updated to include comments by Australia's Foreign Minister