Russia Charges Greenpeace Activists With Hooliganism

MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russian authorities on Monday pressed hooliganism charges against three more Greenpeace activists detained last month during a protest at a state-owned oil rig in Arctic waters.

The new charges come days after Russian authorities said they would soften the initial accusation of piracy against a group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists currently being held in Murmansk.

Piracy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, more than twice the maximum punishment for hooliganism. A Greenpeace spokeswoman said Monday, however, that the piracy charges still had not been dropped.

Only 20 percent of Russians believe that the Greenpeace protest was actually in defense of the environment, whereas 42 percent think it was part of a conspiracy to take away Russia’s valuable natural resources, according to a survey released Monday by respected state-run pollster VTsIOM.

Ruslan Yakushev, a Ukrainian aboard the Greenpeace ship seized during the protest, as well as the ship’s American captain Peter Willcox and Canadian activist Alexandre Paul were charged with hooliganism on Monday. Three others – Andrei Allakhverdov and Yekaterina Zaspa, from Russia, and Gizem Akhan, from Turkey – were similarly charged last week.

Russian authorities seized the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, after several activists tried to climb up the Gazprom rig on September 18. The environmental group is adamantly opposed to drilling in the Arctic because it says an oil spill would be impossible to clean up using today’s technology.

Last week, a Murmansk court finished rejecting all of the 30 detainees’ requests for release on bail or house arrest, and remanded them to custody pending a hearing on November 24.

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