WASHINGTON, October 3 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) – The wife of a Greenpeace ship captain charged with piracy in Russia on Thursday said she is “terrified” of a possible 15-year prison sentence such a charge could carry.
“That’s incredibly frightening,” said Maggy Willcox, who is married to Peter Willcox, captain of the Arctic Sunrise and a longtime Greenpeace activist.
“It’s a survival thing. I cannot let my mind go there. There are so many things here that I don’t understand,” she told RIA Novosti by telephone Thursday before the charges against her husband were announced.
Peter Willcox and Dmitri Litvinov, a US-Swedish crew member, were among 30 people detained when Russian border guards stormed the Arctic Sunrise Sept. 19, one day after activists from the ship scaled a Gazprom oil rig in the Pechora Sea to protest drilling in the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem.
Fourteen of those on board were charged Wednesday, and the remaining 16 were charged Thursday.
“The defendants pleaded not guilty and are currently refusing to give relevant testimony,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement Thursday.
Earlier in the week the committee said the ship had violated a 500-meter safety zone around the rig, and that the crew committed “unlawful activity” by trying to scale the platform, ignoring orders to desist and ramming a border guard boat.
According to Greenpeace, Litvinov said there were “absolutely” no grounds for the charges, telling the court it was a “peaceful protest” announced in advance and meant to keep the world safe from the “threat” of oil drilling.
“It was shock, it is a shock, that this is the reaction that we are getting. The ship has certainly been my home for quite some time. … Actually I hope that we all get to go back to it quite soon,” Litvinov added, according to the environmental group.
“We’re monitoring the case very closely. We’ll continue to provide consular services to both US citizens and their families as well,” US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a briefing Thursday in Washington.
Off the coast of Maine, Maggy Willcox, the captain’s wife of seven months, said she has not heard from her husband since the early hours of Sept. 19, when he copied her on a short note he emailed to the Greenpeace office.
“We are being boarded. Everybody OK,” it read.
“When I read that my heart sank … because I knew things had just moved to a new level,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion over what she called “a heavy-handed, overwhelming response on the Russians’ part” that “took everybody by surprise.”
She said she has turned occasionally to gallows humor to keep her spirits up, telling the Portland Press Herald that “a gulag in Russia was not what I bargained for” when marrying the Greenpeace captain. She added that she takes comfort from news coverage of the case showing her husband with a characteristic grin on his face.
Beneath the stoic exterior, though, she admits, “I’m terrified.”
A longtime member and supporter of Greenpeace, Maggy Willcox said she is proud of the mission her husband was on and that she was aware that he and other environmentalists go up against “enormous, global corporations with bottomless pockets.”
“There’s an element of crazy to it, but that’s not a bad thing,” she said, adding that she is “full of admiration for these people who are willing to really step up to the plate and not just sit behind and say, ‘Oh, geez, it’s too bad that the environment’s going to hell but we’ve got another 30 years before we all suffocate or the oceans die.’”
Russian authorities have inadvertently helped bring attention to what’s going on in the Arctic, Maggie Willcox said.
“The Russians couldn’t have helped Greenpeace more,” she said. “I mean, aside from all the criminal charges.”