￼24 September 2013, News Wires – Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee is reported to be threatening a criminal prosecution against Greenpeace activists involved in a protest at an Arctic oil platform as a vessel on which they are being held by armed guards was towed into the port of Murmansk.
The committee has now officially initiated a piracy probe against the campaigners after they attempted to climb the Prirazlomnaya facility at the Gazprom Neft Shelf-operated Prirazlomnoye oilfield in the Pechora Sea due to be brought online in the fourth quarter, AFP reported.
“It should be noted that all persons who attacked the (oil) platform, regardless of their citizenship, will be brought to criminal responsibility,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement cited by the news agency.
Russian authorities have claimed the activists represented an environmental and safety threat to the platform.
Last week’s protest was halted when Russian Coast Guard officers allegedly fired gunshots into the air and wielded knives against activists in inflatable boats at the base of the platform, while a pair that attempted to climb it were detained.
Armed federal security service agents subsequently boarded Greenpeace mother ship Arctic Sunrise and rounded up 30 activists in an action deemed illegal by the environmental group as the vessel was operating outside of Russian territorial waters.
Greenpeace cited human rights professor Dr Stefan Kirchner as saying the action by Russian forces was “incompatible with the international law of the sea”.
“It appears that Russia has violated the human rights of the crew members as well as rights of the flag state (Netherlands) and of the crew members‘ respective home states. In order to comply with international law, Russia has to ensure the speedy release of the vessel and its crew,” he said in a statement issued by the group.
The vessel arrived under tow in the fjord near Murmansk at around 10:00 local time on Tuesday, accompanied by a tugboat and Coast Guard vessel Ladoga, according to the statement.
The group is demanding immediate access for its lawyers to the activists, who it claims have been held for four days without legal or consular assistance.
The campaigners on the ship are from 18 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Russia, the UK and the US, Greenpeace said.
Meanwhile, 50 Russian non-governmental organisations have issued a joint statement calling for the release of the campaigners amid peaceful demonstration.