Armed Russian boarding of Greenpeace’s Arctic protest vessel

The Guardian reports, 19th September 2013: “Armed Russian military have stormed a Greenpeace ship protesting against oil exploitation in remote Arctic waters. According to the last communications from the Arctic Sunrise before all contact was cut at around 4.30pm BST, the Russians dropped guards on to the deck of the vessel by rope from a helicopter, rounded up the Greenpeace crew and broke into the wheel house and communications rooms.

Frank Hewetson, British action coordinator on the vessel, later said that 29 of the crew were being held under armed guard in the canteen.

The dramatic moves 60km north of the Russian coast near the island of Nova Zemlya, was described by Greenpeace executives in London as “an illegal act in international waters. We have a right to be there. This was an entirely peaceful protest,” said Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe.

But Russian diplomats accused the environmental group of “aggressive and provocative” actions this week after shots were fired by Russian coastguard and two activists from the Arctic Sunrise were arrested on 18th September after scaling the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya platform which is drilling for oil in the area. The activists have been detained on the Russian coastguard ship Ladoga.

Gazprom plans to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform next year 2014, according to Greenpeace, raising the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law.

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 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.”

Figures just released suggest that the extent of Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its sixth lowest level on record, prompting scientists to warn that man-made climate change was bringing the days of an ice-free Arctic closer.

Source: The Guardian, 19th September 2013. For the full text, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/19/greenpeace-protesters-arrested-arctic

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