Charges are also expected to be brought against others in the group of 30 activists who were detained onboard the environmental campaigner’s flagship Arctic Sunrise in the Pechora Sea last month.
Greenpeace termed the first piracy charges “extreme and disproportionate”, the charges coming even after Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated publically that those detained were “of course not pirates”.
The first two slapped with piracy charges on Wednesday were Ana Paula Alminhana from Brazil and UK freelance videographer Kieron Bryan. Later Greenpeace said Russian Roman Dolgov, Sini Saarela from Finland and Dima Litvinov who has dual US and Sweden citizenship,were also charged with piracy.
Later on Wednesday Greenpeace revealed that UK activists Anthony Perrett and Alexandra Harris as well as an unidentified Ukrainian crew member were also charged with piracy.
In a series of updates on its Twitter account, Greenpeace then said five more had keen charged with piracy: Philip Ball from the UK, Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels from the Netherlands, Argentine-Italian Camila Speziale, Pole Tomaz Dziemianczuk and an unidentified Russian crew member.
All 30 protesters remain under detention after Russian security forces stormed the Arctic Sunrise following an attempt by activists to scale the Prirazlomnaya platform at the Prirazlomnoye oilfield operated by Gazprom Neft Shelf.
Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee was reportedly threatening a criminal prosecution against the activists, with a piracy probe officially instigated over the alleged assault.
However, Putin’s comments may have led some to believe that the charge of piracy, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence, would not be brought against any of the activists.
“It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates, but formally they were trying to seize this platform … It is evident that those people violated international law,” the president said late last month.
Responding to news of the first piracy charges, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience.
“This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.
“Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable. It is utterly irrational, it is designed to intimidate and silence us, but we will not be cowed.”
Naidoo called the situation faced by the 30 activists as “the most serious threat to Greenpeace’s peaceful environmental activism” since the original Rainbow Warrior was sunk by French foreign intelligence services in Auckland harbour, killing one person. The French were aiming to disrupt Greenpeace’s protest against nuclear testing in Moruroa.
In a further twist, the captain of the Arctic Sunrise, Peter Willcox – who is now in a Russian jail – was the captain of the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed in 1985.
“Three decades later the activists of the Arctic Sunrise also took a stand, this time against the powerful vested interests of the oil industry, and they could now face the prospect of long periods in a Russian jail,” Naidoo continued.
Greenpeace has been actively campaigning for the release of the 30 people, even disrupting a football match in the UEFA Champions League – which is sponsored by Gazprom – in Switzerland between local side FC Basle and German team Schalke 04.
Four Greenpeace protesters dressed in orange boiler suits and helmets descended on ropes from the roof of the stadium shortly after it kicked off and unfurled banners reading “Gazprom, don’t foul the Arctic” and “Free the Arctic 30”.
The match was halted for some five minutes before the protesters hauled themselves back up to the roof.
Basle could now face disciplinary action following the invasion.