Armed Russian Coast Guard storms Greenpeace protest ship, arrests crew
Pechora Sea, September 19, 2013 — The Russian Coast Guard has boarded the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and is arresting the 25 activists on board following a protest against Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling operations.
© Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
At the time of boarding, the Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform at the three nautical mile limit. 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.
US Greenpeace Captain Peter Wilcox is one of those arrested. Captain Wilcox has skippered Greenpeace vessels for several decades, including the original Rainbow Warrior, which was bombed by French secret agents in New Zealand in 1985 killing one person.
The Coast Guard 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 in order 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.”
Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford said, “We are extremely concerned for the safety of all those on board the Arctic Sunrise, and the activists that were summarily detained yesterday.
“Extreme oil drilling is madness, that much is clear, and the risk of a devastating oil spill while worsening catastrophic climate change is plain. The scenes from the Russian Arctic over the past two days of heavily armed masked men protecting the equipment of massive oil companies and now, storming the ship of peaceful protestors, are highly disturbing.
“We would urge the Russian Government to reassess who poses the real threat in the Arctic, as well as appeal to Shell – massive joint venture partners with Gazprom – to rethink their commitment to exploiting this fragile and unique part of the world, especially when done down the barrel of a gun,” said Mr Radford.
The Russian Ministry of International Affairs earlier claimed the Coast Guard intervened during Wednesday’s protest because the Arctic Sunriserepresented 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.
Keiller MacDuff, Greenpeace USA: +1 202 679 2236
(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 www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/UNCLOS-TOC.htm