Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Formalizes Greenpeace 'Piracy' Charges


Greenpeace's "Arctic Sunrise"(right) is moored next to a Russian Coast Guard ship in the northern port of Murmansk.
Greenpeace's "Arctic Sunrise"(right) is moored next to a Russian Coast Guard ship in the northern port of Murmansk.
Russian authorities have begun pressing piracy charges against Greenpeace campaigners.

Greenpeace International says investigators in the far northwestern city of Murmansk formally charged 13 activists and a freelance videographer with piracy on October 2.

The 14 are from Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine.

If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

Greenpeace lawyer Mikhail Kreindlin described the charges as "groundless and illegal."

"Let me say it once again: we are absolutely convinced that the investigation does not, and cannot, have any evidence of any actions that could be qualified as piracy against our activists," Kreindlin said. "Therefore, we will appeal these charges."

The environmental group's executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said the charge of piracy was "as absurd as it is abominable."

Naidoo said it represented "nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest." He added that the charges represented the "most serious threat" to environmental activism since the group's ship, "Rainbow Warrior," was sunk by French special forces in New Zealand in 1985.

"It is designed to intimidate and silence us, but we will not be cowed," Naidoo warned.

Amnesty International said the charges against the Greenpeace activists were "absurd."

John Dalhuisen, the Europe and Central Asia program director at Amnesty International, said the charges "make a mockery of the Russian justice system and should be dropped immediately."

The charges of piracy came despite President Vladimir Putin's statements last week that the activists were "not pirates." But he said they did break the law by protesting dangerously close to an oil rig.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Greenpeace?

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Greenpeace?

Test your knowledge!

Charges are expected to be brought against the remaining 16 Greenpeace activists over the coming hours and days.

A total of 30 people from 18 countries were detained by Russian authorities after two of them tried to scale an offshore drilling platform in Arctic waters on September 18.

The offshore platform is owned by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom.

The Russian Coast Guard seized Greenpeace's ship, the "Arctic Sunrise," and towed it to Murmansk with the crew and activists aboard.

On October 1, Greenpeace supporters briefly disrupted a Champions League match in Switzerland in a protest against Gazprom, a sponsor of the game.

With reporting by Interfax, Reuters, and AFP

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.