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Greenpeace activists arrested for action in Pechora Sea

September 27, 2013, 11:02 UTC+3

Their fate will now depend on how the investigators interpret the norms of Russian and international law

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MOSCOW, September 27 (Itar-Tass) - A court in Murmansk on Thursday arrested environmentalists of Greenpeace, who participated in the action at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea, on suspicion of piracy. Their fate will now depend on how the investigators interpret the norms of Russian and international law. And Greenpeace has already stated that the organization would appeal all the decisions on the arrests.

On Thursday morning, 30 participants in the Greenpeace action in the Pechora Sea were on buses brought to the Leninsky Court of Murmansk, the Kommersant daily writes. The investigators have opened a criminal case over piracy in connection with the attempts of several crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise vessel on September 18 to hoist a protest banner on the Prirazlomnaya platform and petitioned for the arrest of all the detainees. Sixteen activists have already been taken into custody, and the period of detention for seven of them has been extended to 72 hours. Russia’s Investigating Committee (SK) had previously said that the charges against environmentalists could be softened. This happened shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “it is quite clear that the environmentalists are not pirates,” the newspaper recalls.

However, the embassies of the foreign countries, the citizens of which most of the arrested are, so far have not been in a hurry to express an official protest to the authorities of the Russian Federation. The Kommersant daily has found out this is due to the ambiguous legal situation around the incident in the Pechora Sea. The fate of environmentalists will depend on how the investigators interpret the norms of Russian and international law.

According to the newspaper, the Arctic Sunrise ship had the right to enter the waters of the Pechora Sea - the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation. “But at the same time, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982,” says Dmitry Yastrebov, an expert in international law at the Yuridicheskaya Sluzhba Stolitsy (Legal Service of the Capital) company, “the laws of the coastal state must be observed in this zone.” According to the law “On the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Russian Federation,” said the lawyer, Russian security officials “in the exercise of the sovereign rights of the state to explore, exploit, conserve and manage the living resources, have the right to detain potential violators.”

Due to the ambiguous legal situation, foreign states’ officials have been in no hurry to make formal statements. There were citizens of 18 countries, including the United States, Argentina, Canada, the Netherlands, Ukraine, etc., on board the Arctic Sunrise. And if international NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders, have put forward demands to release the activists, there is clearly no consolidated position among the diplomats.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has already stated that it would appeal all the decisions on the arrests, the Novye Izvestia newspaper writes. “We have believed in the wisdom of our justice to the last minute,” Mikhail Kreindlin, an expert in environmental law at Greenpeace Russia, commented on the events. The environmentalists argue that they only wanted to draw the attention to the danger to the environment, posed by oil production in the Arctic.

The court first considered the case of photographer Denis Sinyakov. “I am not a Greenpeace employee, I am a journalist,” said Sinyakov, explaining his presence on the Arctic Sunrise vessel, however, he was arrested. The Russian Union of Journalists has called for the release of the photojournalist. “As he did not break the law, just tried to spotlight the situation, it is necessary to do everything possible for the Prosecutor General’s Office to intervene and protect this man,” the Union’s Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov said. Also, a rally in front of the Investigative Committee building in Moscow was staged on Thursday under the slogan “Freedom to Sinyakov!” 

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