30 Greenpeace Activists Held In Russian Jail May Be Charged With Piracy After Protesting Oil Rig In Arctic Ocean

 @David_Kashi
on September 30 2013 11:39 AM
Green Peace Activist
Photographer Denis Sinyakov, one of the 30 people detained after a Greenpeace protest at the Prirazlomnaya platform, has his handcuffs removed inside a defendants' box at a district court building in Murmansk, September 26, 2013. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the activists had violated international law but signalled they should not face charges of piracy. Russian authorities seized the activists' ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it to shore after two of the activists tried to scale the rig to protest against Russian plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, which they say poses a threat to the fragile eco-system. REUTERS/Sergei Eshchenko

A Russian court has increased to 30 the number of Greenpeace International activists jailed after the clash last week between the environmentalists and Russia's military, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Russian authorities late Sunday sent eight more members of the crew of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise to jail along with 22 others arrested and incarcerated earlier over the group’s effort to scale an oil platform in the Barents Sea north of Russia on Sept. 25.

This is just the latest in the ongoing saga between Russian authorities and the crew of Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace's icebreaker, who have been butting heads for more than a month.

Aiming to protest oil drilling in the Arctic Shelf, the Arctic Sunrise entered the Northern Sea Route area in late August and has been shadowed by the Russian Coast Guard ever since. On Aug. 26, the Arctic Sunrise protested the Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and Rosneft NK OAO (MCX:ROSN) drilling in the Kara Sea by launching smaller Greenpeace boats and waving banners and signs against drilling. In response, the Russian Coast Guard denied the vessel access to the area and threatened to use live fire. The Arctic Sunrise left the area but wasn't  done in its mission, confronting the Russian authorities several weeks later.

On Sept. 18, the crew approached another oil platform called the Prirazlomnaya, which is operated by Kremlin-controlled OAO Gazprom (MCX:GAZP), in the Barents Sea. When a crew member tried to scale the platform, he was arrested by Russian forces.

The Russian Coast Guard also fired at least 11 warning shots at the Arctic Sunrise and ordered it to leave Russia's territorial waters.

"Due to the refusal of the Arctic Sunrise captain to halt the unlawful activity, the administration took a decision to stop the ship. The Coast Guard was forced to fire warning shots four times from artillery cannon onboard a vessel," the Russian Federal Security Service said.

The next day Russian authorities rappelled onto the ship from a helicopter with guns drawn, and the vessel lost contact with Greenpeace.

A Russian investigative committee said that activists posed a “real threat” to the security of personnel aboard the offshore drilling platform.

The investigative committee said that charges would be filed but did not say whether they are considering charging the activists with piracy, which is punishable with up to 15 years in prison.

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