Sir Paul McCartney asks Russian President Putin for release of the Arctic 30

by Cassady Craighill

November 14, 2013


Sir Paul McCartney has today published his personal correspondence to Vladimir Putin, in which the Beatle calls for the Arctic 30 to be reunited with their families.

In his letter Sir Paul makes a lyrical appeal for the release of the 28 Greenpeace International campaigners and two freelance journalists who remain in detention in St Petersburg, facing charges of piracy and hooliganism. They were arrested eight weeks ago following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling. Sir Paul, who has previously taken tea with Putin in the Kremlin, writes:

Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasnt fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country. That song had one of my favourite Beatles lines in it: Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee its good to be back home. Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners? (See the full letter below)

See what McCartney tweeted after releasing the letter:


McCartney is hugely popular in Russia – and with Vladimir Putin himself. In 2003 he performed to more than 100,000 people including the President in Moscows Red Square.

The strictly private letter was written on October 14th, and Sir Paul is releasing it exactly one month later.

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International said today:

Sir Pauls letter is an extraordinary and beautiful plea for justice from one of the twentieth centurys most famous icons, and it went straight into the inbox of President Putin himself. We know some of the Arctic 30 are able to listen to the radio in their cells, and some of them are no doubt Beatles fans, so this news would be music to their ears. Sir Paul is hugely respected in Russia, and so we hope his letter brings the day closer when those thirty brave men and women are back with their families.

The Arctic 30 were this week moved to St Petersburg, and the charge of piracy has not yet been officially removed, despite a promise by the authorities. Sir Paul was awarded a diploma of honorary professor at St Petersburg’s Conservatoir on a visit to Russia in 2003.

Since the Arctic Sunrise was seized eight weeks ago, there has been an outpouring of support from across the world for the Arctic 30. World leaders including Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their concern for the fate of the prisoners. Thirteen Nobel Peace Prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa have also spoken out.

To date, more than 2 million people have sent letters and emails calling for the release of the Arctic 30, and banners have been hung from Mount Everest to the Eiffel Tower.

Read McCartney’s full letter:

14th October 2013

Dear Vladimir,

I hope this letter finds you well. It is now more than ten years since I played in Red Square, but I still often think about Russia and the Russian people.


I am writing to you about the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists being held in Murmansk. I hope you will not object to me bringing up their case.


I hear from my Russian friends that the protesters are being portrayed in some quarters as being anti-Russian, that they were doing the bidding of western governments, and that they threatened the safety of the people working on that Arctic oil platform.


I am writing to assure you that the Greenpeace I know is most certainly not an anti-Russian organisation. In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And they never take money from any government or corporation anywhere in the world.


And above all else they are peaceful. In my experience, non-violence is an essential part of who they are.

I see you yourself have said that they are not pirates – well, that’s something everybody can agree on. Just as importantly, they don’t think they are above the law. They say they are willing to answer for what they actually did, so could there be a way out of this, one that benefits everybody?


Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate. Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?


Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasn’t fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country. That song had one of my favourite Beatles lines in it: “Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it’s good to be back home.”


Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?


I hope, when our schedules allow, we can meet up again soon in Moscow.


Sincerely yours,

Paul McCartney

See the letter on Sir Paul’s website

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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