(Pechora Sea) — The Russian Coast Guard has boarded the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and is arresting the 25 activists on board following a protest against Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling operations. Two Canadians are among those arrested.
At the time of the boarding, the Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform at the three nautical mile limit, inside international waters. Coordinates confirm that the ship was inside of Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), making this an illegal boarding by the Russian Coast Guard. (1) The coordinates at the time of the boarding were: 69-19-53N : 57-16-53E
Using a helicopter and ropes, armed Coast Guard officials boarded the vessel and started rounding up the activists, assembling them on the helideck. Greenpeace International activists locked inside the radio room said they saw other activists detained on their knees with guns pointed at them.
The Coast Guard had earlier arrested and held without charge two Greenpeace International activists who had scaled Gazprom’s drill platform on Wednesday in a peaceful protest.
Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Canada Arctic campaign coordinator, was on board the Arctic Sunrise in the Russian Arctic earlier this month, and met with Russian Coast Guard agents when the ship was illegally boarded at that time. "I've seen first hand the lengths the Russian authorities will go to protect the interests of the oil industry," she said. "What's happening on the Arctic Sunrise right now is not only terrifying, it is illegal under international law."
“We ask President Putin to restrain the Coast Guard and order them to holster their guns and withdraw. We are a peaceful organization and our protest has done nothing to warrant this level of aggression,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.
The Russian Ministry of International Affairs earlier claimed the Coast Guard intervened during Wednesday’s protest because the Arctic Sunrise represented an environmental and security threat — a claim that Greenpeace International strongly disputes.
“The Coast Guard has boarded our vessels with guns, threatened our activists at gunpoint and fired 11 warning shots across our ship, so who is the real threat to safety here?” said Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace International’s Arctic oil campaign. “Drilling for oil here in the Arctic is a grave environmental risk that must be stopped and this is why Greenpeace International came here, taking peaceful action to defend the environment on behalf of the millions of people around the world who are opposed to drilling operations.
“Make no mistake, the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace International but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas,” concluded Ayliffe.