The environmental group also claimed that disproportionate force was used by Russian Coast Guard during its action against the Prirazlomnoye platform in the Pechora Sea, where five inflatable boats were launched from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise vessel early Wednesday. Crew members of the Arctic Sunrise said a total of 11 warning shots were fired across the ship and that the Russian Coast Guard threatened to fire at the ship itself if it does not leave the area immediately.
The captain of the Arctic Sunrise has also refused permission for the Russian Coast Guard to board its vessel, Greenpeace said. The two arrested activists are in the custody of the Russian Coastguard, it added.
Commenting on Wednesday’s action Ben Aycliffe, head of Greenpeace’s Artic oil campaign, said: “Employing this level of force against a peaceful protest ship is completely disproportionate and should stop immediately. It’s clear that oil companies receive special protection from the Russian authorities, who seem more interested in silencing peaceful activists than protecting the Arctic from reckless companies like Gazprom.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about this: the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace International but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas.”
The Prirazlomnoye oilfield was discovered in 1989. Located some 40 miles offshore northern Russia in water depths of up to 65 feet, it is estimated to contain approximately 500 million barrels of oil and once production begins an estimated 47 million barrels of a year is expected to be produced from the field. The Prirazlomnoye platform is the first Arctic-class, ice-resistant oil platform in the world.
Production operations in the Prirazlomnoye field are expected to begin later this year, according to Gazprom.
Greenpeace said its opposition to production start-up at Prirazlomnoye included the risk of an oil spill in the area, which contains three nature reserves that are protected by Russia law.
The action is just the latest by Greenpeace against drilling for oil in the Arctic. In August, the Arctic Sunrise sailed into the Northern Sea Route offshore Russia to protest Rosneft’s and ExxonMobil’s plans to drill for oil in the Kara Sea. A month earlier six Greenpeace activists scaled London’s Shard, the European Union’s tallest building, in a protest against Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic.