MOSCOW, October 9 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators said Wednesday that drugs have been found on board a Greenpeace ship seized last month, raising the threat of new charges against a group of activists and journalists awaiting trial on suspicion of piracy.
Investigative Committee chief Vladimir Markin said in a statement that the substances found on the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker were presumed to be poppy straw and morphine.
He said “the charge already pressed against all [the detainees] will presumably be modified.”
Russian authorities detained the group of 30 environmentalists and journalists last month after activists from the Greenpeace ship staged a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, with some of them attempting to scale a Russian oil platform.
Greenpeace issued a statement later in the day, saying that the drugs were likely “medical supplies that our ships are obliged to carry under maritime law” and that some medical supplies are kept in a safe accessible only to the ship's captain and doctor.
The group said it has a strict policy against recreational drugs on board its ships and that the Arctic Sunrise had been searched by a sniffer dog before leaving Norway for the Russian Arctic.
All the detainees from the ship, comprising nationals of 18 countries, have been charged with piracy.
The Investigative Committee spokesman also said that a number of defendants in the case will be charged with “committing other grave crimes.”
He said investigators were trying to determine which of the detainees had “intentionally rammed” border guards’ boats – an act that could constitute an assault on the “life and health” of officials.
Under Russian law, the punishment for this crime could range from 12 years to life in prison.
Updated with details from Markin's statement and comments from Greenpeace.