Skip to main content

Russia charges 30 with piracy in Greenpeace protest

By Alla Eshchenko and Jill Dougherty, CNN
October 4, 2013 -- Updated 1109 GMT (1909 HKT)
Greenpeace activists protest on September 27 in front of the Russian embassy in Paris.
Greenpeace activists protest on September 27 in front of the Russian embassy in Paris.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 30 were detained after a protest at a Gazprom oil platform in the Barents Sea
  • Greenpeace says two activists tried to hang a banner from a rig
  • Russia: The action endangered lives, and could have led to an environmental disaster
  • The activists are "accused of an imaginary offense," a Greenpeace official says

(CNN) -- Russian authorities have charged all 30 people aboard a Greenpeace ship with piracy after two activists tried to scale an oil platform in a protest of Arctic drilling last month, the Russian Investigative Committee said Thursday.

The charging began Wednesday and finished Thursday. If convicted, the 28 activists and two freelance journalists could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

None of the 30, who hail from at least 18 countries, pleaded guilty, the committee said.

The defendants include Americans Peter Wilcox, who is the captain of the Arctic Sunrise, and Dmitry Litvinov, who Greenpeace says also holds Swedish citizenship.

Greenpeace defies, Russians tow boat
2012: Russia's Arctic oil ambitions

Greenpeace ship captains defies orders, Russians resort to towing

They were arrested after two of the activists left the Arctic Sunrise and tried to climb the side of an oil platform owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom in the Barents Sea on September 18.

The Russian coast guard detained the pair and the rest of the Arctic Sunrise's crew, and towed the ship to the northwestern Russian port city of Murmansk.

Greenpeace said the two activists were trying to hang a banner from the side of the rig in what the group called a peaceful protest against the "slow but unrelenting destruction of the Arctic."

But Russian authorities accuse them of trying to commandeer the platform. The authorities and Gazprom also say the activists endangered the lives of the company's employees and that their action could have led to an environmental disaster.

Lawyers acting on Greenpeace's behalf have filed appeals in court seeking the defendants' release, Greenpeace said Thursday.

"Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen. They are accused of an imaginary offense," Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said Thursday. "There can be no doubt about why the charge of piracy has been brought and the legal hammer wielded.

"An effort is under way to intimidate us, but our peaceful, passionate campaign against Gazprom and all other Arctic drillers will not be silenced."

The charge of piracy is "over the top," Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA, told CNN earlier this week.

"I think they (Russian prosecutors) will take it all the way to trial," Radford said. "I think Gazprom is using its political muscle to have the courts really crack down on these peaceful protesters. It's a serious and overblown charge.

"They need to have the piracy charge because it's the only way they can save face from illegally arresting these activists and journalists."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he does not consider the protesters pirates, but Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, quoted in the Russian media, said Wednesday: "Environmental concerns cannot be used as a cloak for illegal acts no matter what lofty considerations such acts are based on. They cannot manifest themselves in illegal methods or methods that are eventually unsafe for people and technological facilities."

Six protesting Shell by climbing London's Shard arrested

CNN's Jason Hanna, Tom Watkins and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0317 GMT (1117 HKT)
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT