Russia to Tow Greenpeace Ship to Port After Armed Raid

Friday, 20 Sep 2013 05:55 AM

 

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MOSCOW — Russian border guards said Friday that they would tow Greenpeace's Arctic protest ship to port after armed officers boarded the ship and locked up the activists.

Border guards stormed the ship after Greenpeace activists scaled an oil platform owned by state energy giant Gazprom to protest against planned drilling on the Arctic shelf.

Special forces officers armed with guns locked up crew members on the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker ship after lowering themselves onto the deck with ropes from a helicopter.

"At this moment, the Arctic Sunrise ship is being taken to the port of Murmansk," Greenpeace said on Twitter on Friday morning.

"The decision was taken that the Arctic Sunrise will be taken to the port of Murmansk for further legal procedures," a spokeswoman for the Murmansk region's border guards — a branch of the FSB security service — told the RIA Novosti news agency.

She said that the captain had been questioned but that a full investigation would take place when the ship reaches port.

Murmansk is 1,485 kilometers (920 miles) north of Moscow. Border guards said the rest of the ship's journey would take three days.

Russia's FSB security service, which controls the border guards, has accused the ship's captain of carrying out "unlawful activities."

Greenpeace expert Roman Dolgov told RIA Novosti from onboard the ship: "We are facing quite serious accusations: of terrorism and carrying out illegal scientific research."

He said the activists were locked in the mess but allowed out to go to the toilet or smoke.

Greenpeace said border guards on Wednesday had detained two activists who were attempting to scale Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform and took them on board their patrol boat.

The border guards later returned the two activists from Finland and Switzerland to the Arctic Sunrise and locked them up with their crewmates, Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise was in international waters at the time of the storm, in the southeastern part of the Barents Sea, which lies to the north of Norway and western Russia.

Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday called in the Dutch ambassador to Moscow to complain about the protest.

Greenpeace is campaigning against surveying of oil and gas fields on the Arctic shelf, arguing that any oil leak would be catastrophic in the pristine environment and impossible to bring under control.

But the prospect of more accessible energy riches as global warming gradually melts the sea ice is prompting rivalry between Russia, Norway, and Canada to explore and exploit the region.

© AFP 2014

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