Greenpeace defies Russian attempt to prevent Arctic oil protest, enters Kara Sea

Press release - August 24, 2013
Northern Sea Route, August 24, 2013 - The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise today entered the Northern Sea Route (NSR) off Russia’s coastline to protest against Arctic oil drilling, in defiance of Russian authorities who this week refused the ship permission to enter the area.

14 August 2013

Arctic Sunrise © Will Rose / Greenpeace

Activists aboard the Greenpeace ship plan to engage in a peaceful protest against oil exploration adjacent to the Russian Arctic National Park, where Russian oil major Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are preparing to drill - in violation of Russia’s own environmental laws.

“We refuse to let illegal attempts by the Russian authorities to stop us from exposing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic. The Russian Arctic National Park is a special place full of rare and threatened Arctic wildlife, and faces an infinitely greater threat from reckless oil companies than a fully equipped Greenpeace icebreaker,” says Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.

“If Rosneft and ExxonMobil bring in offshore drilling platforms they will risk catastrophic blowouts and spills that could devastate the region. They rely on secrecy and evasion, but we’re here with over 3.5 million people who have their eyes on the Arctic.”

Greenpeace International revealed on Wednesday that the Russian government had denied permission for the Arctic Sunrise to enter the Northern Sea Route, despite the ship having met in full the requirements for such an entry. Greenpeace International said the refusal of entry was a clear attempt by the Russian government to stifle criticism of the oil industry. (3)

The Arctic Sunrise continued towards the border of the Northern Sea Route as Greenpeace International called on the Northern Sea Route Administration to reassess the unjustified refusal of entry. That decision has not yet been reversed and the Arctic Sunrise entered the NSR on Saturday morning 7.30 Moscow time.

Rosneft’s drilling concession Vostochno-Prinovozemelsky-2, explored in joint operation with ExxonMobil, includes 4,500 hectares with the Russian Arctic National Park in direct contradiction of Russian environmental law (1). The National Park, triumphantly established by Vladimir Putin’s decree in 2009 to develop tourism in the north, is referred to as the Pearl of the Arctic. It’s an important area for polar bears to give birth to their cubs, is famous for walrus rookeries and is home to narwhals and the bowhead whale.

The Russian Arctic National Park is not the only protected area being invaded by Rosneft. The company has managed to acquire a total of 1.2 million hectares of land and sea inside Arctic protected areas. Among them are the Bolshoi Arctichesky Nature Reserve, Franz-Josef Land Nature Reserve and the Wrangel Island Reserve, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site also known as a ‘maternity ward’ for polar bears. (2) Most of these concessions owned by Rosneft will be jointly explored with ExxonMobil.

“If an accident happens here it will cause irreparable harm to the entire region. There is no proven method for dealing with an oil spill in icy conditions, and cold water stops the oil breaking down for many years. Polar bears, walruses and rare creatures like the narwhal will lose their habitat and this place would be devastated.” Ferguson said.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long expedition in the Arctic to expose and protest oil exploration as part of a global campaign which has attracted over 3.5 million people at

Greenpeace International press desk: or +31 20 718 24 70

More information

Press release from Greenpeace International from Wednesday

Letter to Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev informing of the illegal status of the oil exploration concessions (in Russian)



1. Russian Federal Law on Protected Areas strictly forbids the exploration and extraction of natural resources within protected areas and their protective zones. The federal law “On continental shelf of the Russian Federation” forbids the granting of licences for natural resources exploration and extraction if these activities are planned within the borders of protected areas on the continental shelf.

2 UNESCO: “Wrangel was not glaciated during the Quaternary Ice Age, resulting in exceptionally high levels of biodiversity for this region. The island boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. It is a major feeding ground for the grey whale migrating from Mexico and the northernmost nesting ground for 100 migratory bird species, many endangered. …  and [has] the world’s highest density of ancestral polar bear dens.”

3 The decision to deny the Arctic Sunrise entry to the Kara Sea is contrary to Russia’s obligation under Article 58 of the Law of the Sea Convention to allow foreign vessels freedom of navigation in its EEZ, and its obligations under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights to refrain from unjustified interferences with freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.