Russia charges 30 Greenpeace activists with piracy following oil rig protest
BY HENRY MEYER
MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Russia charged 30 people with piracy after Greenpeace activists tried to board an Arctic oil platform as OAO Gazprom said the protest threatened to have “tragic” consequences for workers under water at the time.
All 28 activists as well as a photographer and videographer, who were detained last month, face as long as 15 years in prison if convicted, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement, referring to the group as the “Arctic 30.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for tougher penalties for illegal incursions into oil and gas facilities yesterday, while Greenpeace campaigners occupied gasoline stations in Germany operated by Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company.
On Oct. 1, activists delayed a Champions League soccer game between Basel and Germany’s Schalke 04, sponsored by Gazprom, unfurling a protest banner. Last week, demonstrations were staged in 30 countries, including Brazil, France and the U.S., outside Russian diplomatic missions and Gazprom offices.
“The aim of such a protest may have been to break into the facility and destabilize its work for some time,” Gennady Lyubin, head of Gazprom’s offshore oil division, said in an interview posted on the unit’s website.
“The consequences of the Greenpeace activists’ actions could have been entirely unpredictable and for the divers, quite tragic.”
Investigators opened a criminal case last week against the campaigners from 18 countries for piracy and remanded them in custody for two months in the port city of Murmansk.
Two Greenpeace protesters scaled Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. A day later Russia’s Coast Guard boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters and towed the vessel to Murmansk. Gazprom plans to become the first Russian company to start producing oil in Arctic waters at the Prirazlomnoye deposit as soon as this year. Greenpeace activists scaled the same drilling platform in 2012.