Pechora Sea, September 20, 2013 — The Russian Coast Guard has boarded the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and arrested the 25 activists on board, including two New Zealanders, following a protest against Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling operations.
The names of the arrested crew have not been released yet due to legal reasons.
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.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said:
“This illegal boarding of a peaceful protest ship highlights the extreme lengths that the Russian government will go to to keep Gazprom’s dangerous Arctic drilling away from public scrutiny.
“We ask President Putin to restrain the Coast Guard and order them to holster their guns and withdraw. We are a peaceful organisation and our protest has done nothing to warrant this level of aggression.”
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.”
(1) The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea guarantees foreign vessels freedom to navigate in the Exclusive Economic Zone of another State without interference of any kind. Convention text at ww.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/UNCLOS-TOC.htm