The ship was peacefully protesting at an oil rig in the Russian Economic Exclusion Zone in international waters. The Russian coastguard attacked activists as they prepared to stage their protest, slashing inflatable dingies, firing warning shots and threatening the protesters with guns and knives. The following day, September 19, the ship was boarded by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB). It has since been towed to the Russian port of Murmansk in a move that has been widely described as illegal under international law. Following a short stint in court, the activists have been remanded in custody for the next two months, pending an investigation.
The peaceful protest targeted the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, operated by Gazprom, which is due to be the first rig to begin oil production in the delicate environment of the Arctic seas. Arctic drilling is particularly dangerous. Given the extreme weather conditions and the great distances from emergency help, the possibility of a disaster is very likely. Royal Dutch Shell, having recently been banned from drilling in the American Arctic, has partnered with Gazprom to exploit Russia’s Arctic shelf.
This high profile case is taking place in the context of a broader crackdown on civil society organizations in Russia. Friends of the Earth International wishes to take this opportunity to also express its solidarity with Russian environmental and human rights organizations working in this difficult context and supports this statement regarding the Arctic Sunrise. Peaceful protests help to protect our shared environment and are fundamental to any free thinking society.
Jagoda Munic, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said:
“It is scandalous that Greenpeace activists are facing these criminal charges in Russia following a peaceful protest to highlight the very real dangers of drilling in the Arctic – we fully support the call for their immediate release. The real crime is the continued exploitation of the Arctic – in the face of catastrophic climate change we should be leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground.
“These activists were standing up for the millions of people who are already facing droughts, floods and a loss of their livelihoods because of climate change impacts – it’s the dirty energy companies risking the lives of millions who should be answering for their activities.”
Learn more and take action on the website of Greenpeace International www.greenpeace.org