EU expresses strong support for Greenpeace activists and journalists detained following Arctic protest as Russia modifies charges

Press release - October 23, 2013
UPDATED 8pm CET, including mention of new charges - Brussels/Strasbourg – The European Union has added its weight to the growing number of voices from around the world who have expressed their concern over the fate of twenty-eight Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists who are being detained in Russia on serious charges. Media reports on Wednesday evening said that piracy charges against the Arctic 30 were to be dropped and replaced with charges of hooliganism and other charges that carry a sentence of up to ten years under Russian law [1].

In a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg [2] on behalf of the European Commission, European commissioner Janez Potočnik, said: “While our immediate preoccupation is the continuing detention and the manifestly disproportionate charges brought against those detained, we should not lose from sight the issue that they were attracting attention to. It is one that we should all take very seriously - how to ensure that economic activities in the Arctic do not endanger the region’s fragile environment.”


Potočnik added: “Climate change is already having significant impacts on the Arctic environment, and the exploitation of the region's natural resources poses an additional threat if it is not carried out in a sustainable way, with all necessary precautions in place and in consultation with the people who live there. We can't even begin to imagine the impact that a major oil spill would have on the Arctic environment, nor the difficulty and costs of trying to clean it up.”

Potočnik regretted Russia’s announcement that it would not accept international arbitration in a case brought by the Netherlands, under the UN’s Law of the Sea Tribunal, calling for the release of the crew and the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, which flies a Dutch flag. “While regretting this decision we note that Russia has declared itself “open to settlement” of the case. This gives hope for a positive outcome,” he said.

Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss commented: “It is encouraging to see that the EU recognises the dangers of drilling in the Arctic’s fragile environment. We welcome its concern about the people who protested against Gazprom’s reckless plans and hope the growing worldwide movement of support will help to get our activists and the journalists released soon.”

Also speaking in Strasbourg today, Knut Fleckenstein MEP, chairman of the EU-Russia delegation in the European parliament, said “peaceful protest should not be labelled as piracy” and promised to plead for the release of the Arctic 30 in meetings with Russian MPs in Moscow next week [3].

Vytas Leškevičius, deputy foreign minister for Lithuania, which holds the EU presidency of the Council, also spoke of “disproportionate” charges and said he was "looking forward to [the] release" of the crew.

Over 90 members of the European Parliament have signed a solidarity statement [4] calling for the immediate release of the Greenpeace activists and the journalists. The parliamentarians, from 20 countries and seven different political groups, also called for a ban on oil drilling in the fragile Arctic environment, where extreme weather conditions would make cleaning up an oil spill impossible.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and 11 Nobel peace prize laureates are only some of those who have recently spoken up on the Arctic 30.

Over 1.6 million people have signed a petition to Russian embassies around the world, while tens of thousands have taken to the streets in cities on every continent. The International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists have also called for the release of the two journalists among those detained [5].

The Greenpeace activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance video journalist were detained following a peaceful protest against the Gazprom drilling platform Prirazlomnaya on 18 September, as part of Greenpeace’s global campaign to protect the Arctic. They are being held in the city of Murmansk.



[1] Greenpeace International responds to hooliganism charge: 

[2] Full statement by the European Commission:

Video footage (extracts) of the Arctic 30 debate in the European Parliament:

[3] Knut Fleckenstein statement:

[4] Arctic 30 MEP solidarity statement: 



Contacts: Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken (in Strasbourg): +32 (0)476 961375

Greenpeace EU pressdesk – +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.