After two years of research, filming and web design we are getting ready to launch OFFSHORE when the Greenpeace 30 (actually the Greenpeace 28 plus a freelance photographer and journalist) are arrested on September the 18th while protesting offshore drilling in the Russian Arctic. But ‘arrested’ is too benign a word for what happened. When two activists tried to hang a banner from the Prirazlominaya oil platform, the crew of the platform blasted them with icy water as the Russian FSB (state security force) rappelled onto the Greenpeace ship from a helicopter, guns at the ready, forcing everyone facedown onto the deck. Peter Wilcox, the captain of the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise refused to start the boat’s engines so it took two days to tow the ship into the Murmansk harbour. Upon arrival the group was broken up, some sent to an Arctic prison several hundred miles away, others were transported by police van to the prison in Muramansk. All have been denied bail and are currently being held in pre-trial detention. The thirty range from seasoned activists like Canadian Paul Ruzycki, second in command on the ship who has worked with Greenpeace for 25 years to younger folks on their Greenpeace maiden voyage. Alexandre Paul, the ship’s other Canadian is a ten year veteran of Greenpeace campaigns and served as the ship’s bosun.
An interview with Alexandre’s parents in Pike River, Quebec may be viewed here:
At first, the group were charged with ‘piracy’ –an absurd charge given the Arctic Sunrise was in international waters and if anyone might be charged with piracy it would seem the FSB might make a good candidate given their illegal seizure of the ship—an action that the Netherlands is contesting at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The Russian Foreign Ministry, however has already announced that does not accept the arbitration procedure and will be boycotting the hearing.
On October 23rd, after more than 30 days of detention, Russian investigators announced they would be replacing the piracy charge with a charge of ‘hooliganism.’ Lest anyone think that the Russian criminal investigators’ revision of charges was the result of growing international pressure as Nobel Peace Prize winners, heads of state and millions of people have loudly proclaimed their dismay at the arbitrary arrest and detention, we might think again. Diego Creimer, Greenpeace Head of Communication in Montreal explained to me that while piracy is easily contestable in a court of international law, ‘hooliganism’ throws the case into the idiosyncratic and notoriously corrupt Russian criminal justice system where the rules of the game are pretty much weighted in the interests of the state. ‘Hooliganism,’ afterall was the charge used to convict “Pussy Riot.”
Things are heating up in the Arctic and it isn’t only climate change that is responsible. The American Geological Survey claims that the Arctic holds 25% of the world’s remaining oil reserves and as the ice melts and Arctic countries jostle for their stake, a new ‘great game’ is erupting with huge implications for the planet’s future.
Gazprom is Russia’s biggest company, accounting for 10% of the country’s GDP, and it is the key player in Putin’s plan to remake Russia into an energy superpower of the 21st century. Arctic oil drilling is central. Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya is now the first platform in history to begin commercial drilling operations in the ice infested waters above the Arctic Circle. High priority national project and global investment opportunity, the platform is predicted to start delivering oil to the global market by 2014. There is a lot at stake.
For information on the bizarre and hair raising story of the Prirazlomnaya’s construction see Anna Galinka’s report here: http://platformlondon.org/2011/09/12/prirazlomnaya-arctic-oil-suspicion/