OTTAWA – Canada has contacted Russian consular officials about the fate of two Canadian Greenpeace activists arrested Thursday when the Russian coast guard boarded and seized control of the ship Arctic Sunrise.
But the Department of Foriegn Affairs is saying little about the incident or what, if anything, Canada is doing to ensure the safety of Paul Ruzycki, a Port Colborne native, and a second crew member from Montreal.
“We are aware of the situation involving the Greenpeace boat,” Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Beatrice Fenelon, told Bullet News Friday afternoon.
“Consular officials have inquired with Russian officials on the situation. Due to the Privacy Act, we are not able to share any more information on this matter.”
Ruzycki is part of an international crew currently on a month-long expedition in the icy Arctic.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global sanctuary to be declared around the uninhabited area of the North Pole, where a drilling project to extract oil from the Barents Sea is underway. The project is run by Russian oil monopoly Gazprom.
On Wednesday, activists from the Greenpeace ship were intercepted and allegedly “threatened” by members of a Russian coast guard patrol, while trying to climb onto an oil platform in the Pechora Sea.
On Thursday, an already-tense situation escalated when the Arctic Sunrise was boarded and the entire crew was arrested. The ship was then taken into tow and was reportedly headed toward Murmansk, a journey of several days.
Greenpeace claims the ship, which flies a Dutch flag, was in international waters at the time of the encounter.
Malcolm Allen, the New Democratic party MP for Welland, said he’s aware of the incident and is monitoring the situation.
“We are waiting for confirmation and following normal protocol for Canadians involved in incidents like these,” Allen told Bullet News.
“We have a hotline to the Minister’s office and will soon know what can be done (to help the Canadians aboard the Arctic Sunrise).”
Late Thursday, the Russian government issued a media statement detailing their version of events, calling the actions of the activists ”aggressive” and “provocative, creating a threat for the lives of people and capable of causing an environmental disaster in the Arctic area with unpredictable consequences.”
Russian officials have complained to the government of The Netherlands, where Greenpeace is headquartered.
The Arctic Sunrise is an 50-metre-long, 949-tonne ice breaker built in 1975. The ship has a crew of 30.
“We haven’t had contact with the ship in over 24 hours now,” Greenpeace Canada spokeswoman Christy Ferguson, told Bullet News.
Ferguson, who just a few weeks ago returned to Toronto from a stint aboard the Arctic Sunrise, said the organization is pressing Russian officials for answers.
“We still have no official confirmation from Russian authorities on whether our activists have been arrested or on what charges,” said Ferguson.
“We are working very hard behind the scenes to get answers to this as a matter of urgency.”
On Friday, there were more than 35 “solidarity activities” at Russian Embassies organized by Greenpeace offices around the world, including activities at Russian consulates in both Toronto and Montreal, Ferguson said.
“We’ve also had nearly 190,000 petitions sent to Russian embassies by supporters,” she added.
Greenpeace International, which has characterized its Arctic mission as a “peaceful protest,” is calling on the Russians to free the ship and its crew.
“Rather than try to prevent peaceful protest at Gazprom’s dangerous Arctic rig Russia’s security forces should focus on the true threat to their citizens and environment – climate change and oil drilling,” Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo, said in a written statement.
“Again we call on the Russian authorities to set our ship and activists free.”
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