MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti) – Russian authorities have pressed hooliganism charges against four more Greenpeace activists detained last month during a protest at a state-owned oil rig in Arctic waters, a Greenpeace spokesperson said.
British nationals Frank Hewetson, Iain Rogers, Kieron Bryan as well as Jonathan Beauchamp from New Zealand were charged late on Monday, Maria Favorskaya told RIA Novosti.
She confirmed that Ruslan Yakushev, a Ukrainian aboard the Greenpeace ship seized during the protest, as well as the ship's American captain Peter Willcox and Canadian activist Alexandre Paul were charged with hooliganism earlier in the day.
Three others – Andrei Allakhverdov and Yekaterina Zaspa, from Russia, and Gizem Akhan, from Turkey – were similarly charged last week.
The new charges come days after Russian authorities said they would soften the initial accusation of piracy against the so-called Arctic 30 - a group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists currently being held in Murmansk.
Hooliganism is punishable by up to seven years in prison, while the maximum punishment for piracy is 15 years.
Russian investigators earlier said some of the detained activists could face additional charges, including “assault on an official on duty.”
Russia seized the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, after several activists tried to climb up the Gazprom rig on September 18. The environmental group is adamantly opposed to drilling in the Arctic because it says an oil spill would be impossible to clean up using today’s technology.
Last week, a Murmansk court finished rejecting all of the 30 detainees' requests for release on bail or house arrest, and remanded them to custody pending a hearing on November 24.
Only 20 percent of Russians believe that the Greenpeace protest was actually in defense of the environment, whereas 42 percent think it was part of a conspiracy to take away Russia’s valuable natural resources, according to a survey released Monday by respected state-run pollster VTsIOM.