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Russia Considers Piracy Charges For Greenpeace Activists

Fri, 20th Sep 2013 17:44

MOSCOW (Alliance News) - Russian Investigators said Friday that they are considering to press piracy charges against Greenpeace activists who launched a protest against an Arctic oil drilling platform.

If convicted, the activists on the "Arctic Sunrise" could face up to 15 years in prison, according the Russian criminal code.

Earlier, a border guard spokeswoman suggested that the activists might face terrorism charges and could be accused of violating Russia's exclusive economic border zone.

Armed coastguard forces boarded the Greenpeace ship from a helicopter late on Thursday in the Pechora Sea, and detained all 30 people on it. A day earlier, the activists had attempted to storm the Prirazlomnaya oil platform. However, the protest was thwarted by coastguards, who detained two activists and fired artillery rounds across the bows of the Arctic Sunrise.

The incident also prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to summon of the Dutch Ambassador on Wednesday because the "Arctic Sea" is registered in the Netherlands.

The two detained were returned to the ship during Thursday's raid. On Friday, coastguards said the ship would be taken to the port city of Murmansk.

"The vessel has been seized. In accordance with Russian law, it was decided to have it towed to Murmansk," an unnamed spokesman in the Arctic city told the Interfax news agency.

He added that the journey would take at least three days.

The Federal Security Service said in Moscow that a decision about charges against crew members would be made after their arrival in Murmansk, the Itar-Tass news agency reported. Greenpeace called the action both overblown and illegal and demanded that the ship be released.

"The boarding of the Arctic Sunrise is an outrageous reaction to peaceful protest against dangerous oil drilling by Gazprom," the organization said on Twitter.

None of the Greenpeace activists, including four Russians, were injured, but the group said it was concerned about them.

"The last contact by satellite phone was at 1 am (2100 GMT on Thursday)," Greenpeace spokeswoman Maria Favorskaya told dpa. She added that according to satellite data the ship began moving towards the Russian coast on Thursday.

Greenpeace activists on Friday held a protest outside the Moscow headquarters of Gazprom. The oil platform belongs to Gazpromneft, a subsidiary of the state energy giant.

The organization said solidarity protests were held in Moscow and outside Russian embassies in Europe and North America.

Exploration of the oil field started last year, and the Prirazlomnaya platform is Russia's first Arctic oil-drilling hub. Greenpeace says that the drilling is using dangerously obsolete equipment in an environmentally sensitive area.

In a similar protest last year, Greenpeace activists managed to scale the platform and unfold banners before being escorted back to their ship.

Copyright dpa

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