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Greenpeace activists in Pechora Sea meant good, but might have caused harm

October 09, 2013, 17:55 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 9 (Itar-Tass) - Legal proceedings are gaining momentum in Russia regarding thirty activists of the international ecological movement Greenpeace, detained in the Pechora Sea for trying to stage a protest action at the Prirazlomnaya oil and gas production rig. The court has accused them of an act of piracy, although the country’s leading human rights activists, including Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and head of the presidential human rights council Mikhail Fedotov, and even President Vladimir Putin himself have declared in public they see no traces of piracy in what the green activists were trying to do.

Most of the arrested are foreigners. Their protest action might have triggered an ecological disaster, experts warn.

On Tuesday, a court in the Murmansk Region upheld the arrest of ship doctor from the Dutch icebreaker The Arctic Sunrise, Yekaterina Zaspa, chief of the Greenpeace Russia press-service, Andrei Allakhverdov, and photographer Denis Sinyakov. All are suspected of piracy. All were refused release on bail. By the end of this week the court will consider complaints against the arrest of the 27 other activists, involved in the attack Greenpeace activists against the Prirazlomnaya platform.

On Tuesday photographer Denis Sinyakov failed to persuade the court that during the protest action he had been just doing the job of a journalist for an online periodical.

“The PC that was taken away from me contains a by-minute photo chronicle of the events at Prirazlomnaya,” he said. Sinyakov’s lawyer handed over to the court a file with messages from over 300 editors-in-chief, journalists and photographers of Russian mass media with a request for not keeping their colleague in custody before trial.

“Denis Sinyakov’s arrest is crude violation of the law on the mass media,” the presidential human rights council said in a statement. However, the court ruled otherwise.

The Prirazlomnaya affair has gained wide international publicity. In Amsterdam and The Hague Greenpeace activists have staged protest demonstrations. In Amsterdam, Dutch police beat up a Russian diplomat. The chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, Alexei Pushkov, sees a direct link between the incident involving the Russian diplomat and the detention of the Dutch icebreaker Arctic Sunrise.

Human rights activist, leader of the national movement Civil Dignity, Ella Pamfilova, has told ITAR-TASS in an interview, “I am an ecologically-minded person; we cooperate with the Greens a great deal.”

“True, there must be growing public awareness of the problem of pollution of seas and oceans, but surely it should be achieved by different means, not those, the Arctic Sunrise crew resorted to. The activists stepped over the boundaries of what is permissible and endangered the lives of Prirazlomnaya platform personnel. Their fine intentions could have well resulted in an oil spill and ecological disaster. They did not care about the likely negative effects of their protest action,” Pamfilova said.

As far as the legal proceedings are concerned, Pamfilova prefers to adhere to the law.

“Russia acted very boldly when it detained Greenpeace activists, because the movement has a great media and public relations potential around the world. Russia should take the affair to the logical outcome and to carry out impeccable judicial procedures.”

At the same time the human rights activist underscored the need for creating normal conditions for those kept at the detention centre in Murmansk and to observe all rights of those in jail.

As for the arrested photographer Sinyakov, Pamfilova sees eye to eye with the media community.

“A person’s right to engage in one’s professional activity is inviolable. They surely overdid it,” Pamfilova said.

Presidential human rights council member Kirill Kabanov has told ITAR-TASS “I know for certain that using arrest against a journalist who is performing one’s professional duties is a disproportionate measure.” About the piracy charges brought against the other ecological activists, Kabanov said they looked very far-fetched.

And Moscow’s human rights ombudsman, Alexander Muzykantsky, told ITAR-TASS is not in the mood of overdramatizing the trial of the “green” activists in the Murmansk Region.

“The real aim is to scare them for long. Then they will be set free,” he said.