MOSCOW – Russian coastguard workers boarded a Greenpeace ship and took custody of the activists on board, to stop them from disrupting the work of a controversial oil rig. Russia has begun towing the Greenpeace ship to port.
Environment activists alleged Russian guards have detained at gunpoint 30 activists, six of whom are British.
Greenpeace had been using the Dutch icebreaker ship Arctic Sunrise as a base from which to protest oil drilling at the Russian Prirazlomnaya platform, and on Wednesday two activists were arrested by the Coast Guard as they attempted to scale the outside of the offshore drilling rig.
According to Greenpeace, a masked man identified as a Russian coast guard officer pointed a gun at a Greenpeace International activist, during a protest near a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea September 18, 2013.
Russian border guards began pulling the Arctic Sunrise ship to a nearby port on Friday, Greenpeace reported on Twitter.
“At this moment, the Arctic Sunrise ship is being taken to the port of Murmansk,” the environmental group said.
Environmentalists say that the scale of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is devastating stock numbers in Thai waters. They also warn that the danger is being overlooked by the government.
“According to the statement, around 15 armed men boarded the ship in the Barents Sea by lowering themselves on ropes from a helicopter at around 7 p.m. local time (1600 UTC). They then began aggressively moving the activists into a single compartment on board the ship.
“No one has been hurt, and spirits are high. The crew is however not in control of the ship at this point,” Greenpeace wrote on Twitter.
Greenpeace insists its Dutch-flagged ship was in international waters at the time of the raid.
On Thursday Moscow said it had summoned the Dutch ambassador to Russia, Ron van Dartel, to issue a protest over the activists’ attempt to scale the platform.
The activists acted in a “provocative and life-threatening manner that might lead to an ecological catastrophe,” the foreign ministry said in a note delivered to van Dartel on Wednesday.
Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace’s Russian office rejected the allegations, saying the ship had not violated any laws.
The Greenpeace ship has been protesting a plan by Gazprom to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform in 2014.
It argues that the world’s largest gas company risks causing a catastrophic oil spill in an area with three nature reserves that are home to polar bears, walruses and rare seabirds, describing the oil platform as “an Arctic disaster waiting to happen”.
The environmental group has now set up a campaign page on its website entitled “Free our activists”. There, they claim that the Arctic Sunrise had been engaged in “a peaceful protest against energy giant Gazprom which is poised to drill for the first oil to come out of the icy waters of the Arctic”.
The group urged readers to get in contact with the Russian Ambassador in London to demand the release of the activists, and added: “The Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform inside international waters and outside the jurisdiction of Russian authorities, making the boarding of the ship unlawful.”