WWF enters Arctic Greenpeace row

Greenpeace activists outside the Russian embassy in Wellington, New Zealand. Phot credit: Greenpeace New Zealand.
By Anders Lorenzen

Conservation group the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) said in a press statement yesterday that they’re calling for Russia to release 30 Greenpeace activists arrested by the Russian authorities guard last week.

Thursday afternoon, the Russian coast guard boarded and seized the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise, which is currently being towed to the port of Murmansk in Russia. According to Greenpeace, this act was a violation of international sea laws as at the time the Arctic Sunrise was in international waters. It follows events on Wednesday, in which two Greenpeace activists were arrested at gunpoint and held without charge in connection with the scaling of Russian gas and oil company Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye drilling platform in the Pechora sea.

In statements that have angered Greenpeace, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on Friday that it is formally considering charging Greenpeace with piracy.

Greenpeace International’s General Counsel Jasper Teulings said:

“The suggestion that Greenpeace International engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation. The activists climbed Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests.
WWF and Greenpeace have not always agreed on tactics for protecting the environment but in the Arctic battle the conservation group gave Greenpeace a resounding endorsement of their campaign against Arctic drilling. WWF said that it shares Greenpeace’s concerns over Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye activities, which has already been strongly criticized by leading Russian safety experts. Last year WWF issued a joint report with Greenpeace documenting the project’s environmental risks to the fragile Arctic environment, which has until now been met with silence.
Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International commented:
‘’Gazprom refused to respond to concerns about the project raised by Greenpeace, WWF and Russian experts, and this escalation is a consequence. WWF calls on Russian authorities to release Greenpeace’s crew members immediately.’’
Greenpeace are preparing to mount legal challenges against the activities of the Russian authorities, Jasper Teulings adds:
“Over a day after our protest the Russian Coast guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever. This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment. We will contest these allegations strongly and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship.”

According to Greenpeace more than 235,000 people worldwide have written to their embassies demanding that the Greenpeace activist should be released.

Related news:
Russia seizes Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship

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