Russian embassy replies to your emails demanding freedom for the Arctic 30



All rights reserved. Credit: Cobb/Greenpeace
Over 2.5 million emails have been sent to Russian embassies around the world
Image caption: 
Over 2.5 million emails have been sent to Russian embassies around the world

We've
received a reply from the Russian embassy in London in response to the
thousands of emails sent in support of the Arctic 30. It's a shame they didn't
respond to everyone personally, but any response is always welcome.

It's a short
letter from press secretary Artem Kozhin and a much longer Q&A-style
document which sets out the Russian government's position, but naturally it's
not one that I, or anyone else here, agrees with.

Here are the
main claims and allegations, and details on why they're unfounded.

Read the embassy's full response at the bottom of this page.

(This came
through a few weeks ago but I've only now had time to compose a response –
sorry!)

The allegation that Greenpeace tried
to ‘attack’ or ‘storm’ the Prirazlomnaya

If the
Russian authorities are using these words in the same way a football
commentator might, it would be a bit pedantic of us to criticise their choice
of metaphors. If they mean it literally, then we can help them out of this
confusion. If you study the video evidence carefully, you’ll notice that the
people waving guns and knives, abseiling out of helicopters and pushing people
around are Federal Security Service coastguards. The Greenpeace activists are
the people with their hands in the air.

The allegation that the Greenpeace
action was ‘dangerous’ to the rig and its workers

The
Prirazlomnaya is a bit of a rickety old thing – at least for drilling for oil
in the icy waters of the Arctic. It’s pieced together from bits of old rigs,
and we are deeply concerned as to whether it can withstand the rough conditions
in the Arctic Ocean. However, weighing in at half a million tonnes, we suspect
it probably stands a fairly good chance of coming through a Greenpeace
banner-hang relatively unscathed. If, however, we have miscalculated, and the
Prirazlomnaya really could sink under the weight of a couple of climbers and a
banner, then we recommend immediate evacuation.

The claim that the Russian
authorities needed two months (now extended to five) to investigate ‘the true motive
and purpose of the Greenpeace action’

Speaking as
a Greenpeace press officer, this is just depressing. I’m frequently surprised
at how difficult it can be to get our message across to people, and sometimes
it’s hard to really sum up an issue in a banner slogan, but no-one has ever
needed a five month investigation before.

The allegation that the crew of the
Arctic Sunrise violated Russian law, specifically Section 4, Article 226
(piracy) and Article 213 (hooliganism)

Both charges
require violence to have been used by the perpetrator. Article 226 requires the
violence to have been for the purpose of personal gain, Article 213 requires
the violence to have been committed on Russian territory. Peaceful protest in
international waters does not come under either article. 

The claim that the investigative
committee have downgraded the charges to “hooliganism”

Officially,
the Arctic 30 are still currently charged with “hooliganism” and “piracy”. We
strongly support the Investigative Committee’s view that the piracy charges
should be dropped, and encourage them to do so at the earliest opportunity.

The allegation that Greenpeace
violated international law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS)

Fortunately,
this issue has now been resolved by the International Tribunal on the Law of
the Sea (Itlos), consisting of 21 judges from around the world. On 22 November, Itlos ordered that the Arctic Sunrise and her crew should be
released, and that the Russian boarding and seizure of the vessel and crew were
illegal (pdf).

The allegation that the Arctic
Sunrise ‘was not responding to repeated radio requests and warnings from the
Russian Coast Guard’

We’re quite
a chatty bunch, and always scrupulously polite – and there was a native Russian
speaker on the bridge of the Arctic Sunrise at the time of the action. We think
they probably mean ‘not obeying’ rather than ‘not responding’.

The claim that Russia was fully aware
of the Arctic Sunrise’s history, its presence in the Russian Arctic, and its
plans to protest at the Prirazlomnaya

Could well
all be true, actually. Pretty much everything the Arctic Sunrise does is
detailed extensively on our websites, as well as in the media, it’s a pretty
distinctive looking ship, and did indeed do exactly the same thing in the same
place at the same time last year. This does rather call into question the
Russian authorities’ insistence that the Arctic Sunrise were a security threat because
they "could have been anyone".



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