The Russian Coast Guard threatened to fire on a Greenpeace vessel protesting Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and Rosneft NK OAO (MCX:ROSN) drilling in the Arctic, and turned the ship around, Greenpeace told International Business Times Monday.

“They [Russian Coast Guard] said that their captain demanded that we leave the Northern Sea route area, and that if we didn’t they would use strict measures,” Christie Ferguson, the lead Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace, told IBTimes in a phone interview. “That if we didn’t leave the Northern Sea route area that they would fire on our ship.”

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For days now the Russian Coast Guard has been shadowing the Arctic Sunrise as the vessel has been traversing the Northern Sea route to reach ExxonMobil's and Rosneft’s activities in the Kara Sea.

Russia has denied the Arctic Sunrise access to the area, but Ferguson said that they were within their legal rights to enter and protest the activities of the giant oil companies.

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Earlier Monday smaller Greenpeace boats were launched to protest a seismic vessel, the Geolog Dmitry Nalivkin, in the Kara Sea, as the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft and American oil giant ExxonMobil prepare to drill, including in areas overlapping the Russian Arctic National Park.

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Ferguson said the Russian Coast Guard searched the Greenpeace boat for four hours and then threatened to use live fire if it did not turn around.

As they turned back, Ferguson said from a satellite phone in the middle of the Kara Sea that the Russians were attempting to stifle public criticism and protests. Looking out a window from within the icebreaker, she said that the Russian Coast Guard continued shadowing them.