At 4.30am Moscow time, five inflatable boats were launched from the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and headed towards the Gazprom oil rig Prirazlomnaya, in the remote Pechora sea. One of the inflatables was confronted by the Russian Coast Guard, and two activists were arrested. Two other activists are now attached to the oil platform.
The two activists intend to stay there as long as possible and the Arctic Sunrise is situated nearby in support. The Russian Coast Guard has responded to the peaceful protest by launching smaller boats to arrest the activists and is now demanding to board the Arctic Sunrise for an ‘inspection’.
Greenpeace International activist Sini Saarela, 31, is currently on the platform. She said:
“This rusty oil platform is an Arctic disaster waiting to happen. We’re hundreds of miles away from emergency response vessels or independent observers, but right next to a pristine Arctic environment that’s home to polar bears, walruses and rare seabirds.”
“Last year we blocked this platform for five days and we’re back to stop Gazprom for good. This is an era defining battle - do we allow vast companies to drill for more of the oil that’s melting the Arctic and wrecking our climate, or do we draw a line in the ice and say ‘enough’?”
Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the US have just announced (1) that Arctic sea ice is close to reaching its lowest extent for 2013. The level will be significantly below the long-term average and is consistent with predictions of a collapse in sea ice.
Gazprom plans to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform in the first quarter of 2014, raising the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law (2). Greenpeace occupied the same platform in August 2012 with activists including the organisation’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo (3).
The company has also signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell to further exploit Russia’s Arctic shelf. Although joint Shell-Gazprom drilling operations remain some years away, the partnership will expose Shell’s investors to the huge risks associated with Russia’s chaotic oil industry.
Faiza Oulahsen, 26, a Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner, is on the Arctic Sunrise. She said:
“Shell screwed up in the US Arctic, so now they’re teaming up with one of the most reckless oil companies on earth to exploit the weak regulations in Russia. Shell’s board must know that an Arctic oil spill would mean financial and reputational ruin, but they’ve run out of options and are desperate for the last drops of oil left on the planet.”
Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise was the subject of global media attention last month when Russian authorities denied the icebreaker permission to enter the Northern Sea Route to protest Arctic oil drilling.
The ship entered the area regardless because it meets all required standards for ice class vessels. The Russian coast guard subsequently boarded the ship and ordered its captain to leave the area under the threat of preventative fire, leading the Dutch government, under whose flag the vessel sails, to demand an explanation.
“Gazprom is a tool of the Russian state and this platform benefits from all the special favours and weak regulations the Kremlin can offer. Let’s be absolutely clear: Arctic drilling is not safe and oil spills are inevitable. The real risk to the Arctic is not from peaceful protest but from reckless oil companies like Shell and Gazprom,” Oulahsen said.
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Greenpeace International press desk: or +31 20 718 24 70
Video and photos
For images visit photo.greenpeace.org or contact the video desk hotline on: +31 (0) 20718 2472.
Video will be made available from FTP:
For a full briefing on Gazprom’s safety record and the Prirazlomnaya platform:
Nearly four million people have joined Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign since June 2012, including high profile figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Paul McCartney, and Penelope Cruz. One of the campaign’s main goals - a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole - was recently boosted after the Government of Finland announced its support for the concept.
(1) Melt season ending: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2013/09/4292/
(2) Oil spill scenario models show that a Prirazlomnaya oil spill threatens the Russian Arctic with irreparable damage:
(3) In August last year five activists together with the executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, protested the operation of the Prirazlomnaya for five days: