UPDATE: As of 5 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, Sept. 24, a Greenpeace Twitter feed reported the organization has this morning had the first contact with the crew in days. The ship is currently near Mishukovo, near Murmansk, in northern Russia. It is expected to arrive in Port today. The ship’s crew, still in custody of the Russian coastguard, reportedly made a banner saying “Save the Arctic” while under armed guard. “Despite the ordeal, they’re in high spirits. They know what they did was right,” one message on Twitter reads.
JOHN ROBBINS and LISA RIND / Bullet News
The Russian government is considering laying criminal charges against the crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, which was boarded by that county’s coastguard last week and is being towed to Murmansk, a port city and military base in the Barents Sea.
The ship, which is expected to arrive there today, has an international crew of 30, including two Canadians – first-mate Paul Ruzycki, of Port Colborne, and another man from Montreal.
Greenpeace officials have had no word from the crew since the ship was boarded by the Russian coastguard last Thursday – a day after a group of activists from the Arctic Sunrise attempted to climb onto an oil-drilling platform operated by Gazprom, a Russian state-owned energy monopoly.
Radio Free Europe is reporting Russian officials with the Federal Security Service as saying they are considering laying piracy charges, which can carry a maximum of 15 years in jail.
The regional unit of Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was considering bringing charges of piracy, which can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail.
Greenpeace International’s General Counsel Jasper Teulings responded to the Russian accusation of piracy in a media statement.
“The suggestion that Greenpeace International engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation. The activists climbed Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests,” said Teulings.
“Over a day after our protest the Russian Coast guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever. This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment. We will contest these allegations strongly and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship.”
Greenpeace cialis online pharmacy 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. Greenpeace said Friday it expects the Arctic Sunrise will arrive in Murmansk today.
Greenpeace claims the ship, which flies a Dutch flag, was in international waters at the time of the encounter.
Canada has contacted Russian consular officials about the fate of the two Canadian Greenpeace activists.
But the Department of Foriegn Affairs is saying little about the incident or what, if anything, Canada is doing to ensure the safety of Ruzycki and his Canadian shipmate.
“We are aware of the situation involving the Greenpeace boat,” Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Beatrice Fenelon, told Bullet News Friday.
“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.”
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 on Friday.
“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.
“We haven’t had contact with the ship in over 24 hours now,” Greenpeace Canada spokeswoman Christy Ferguson, told Bullet News on Friday.
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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