Russia summons Dutch envoy over Greenpeace Arctic protest

19th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Thursday it has protested to the Dutch ambassador in Moscow over "aggressive and provocative" actions by Greenpeace activists who scaled an oil platform in the Arctic owned by energy giant Gazprom.

Greenpeace said Russia's security services were holding two activists for a second day after a tense standoff Wednesday when the Russian coastguard fired warning shots across the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise.

The foreign ministry said in a statement it has summoned the Dutch ambassador to Moscow Ron van Dartel to protest "provocative actions" by the Arctic Sunrise and its activists.

It said the campaigners attempted to "infiltrate" the Prirazlomnaya platform, describing their actions as being of "aggressive and provocative character, bearing the characteristics of extremist activity".

Their action "threatened people's lives and could lead to environmental catastrophe in the Arctic", the ministry said.

On Wednesday, the coastguard arrested two Greenpeace activists who tried to attach themselves to the platform in protest at Gazprom's activities in the Barents sea.

In a Greenpeace video, coastguard vessels are seen clashing with the activist boats, while an official on the Russian ship accused the campaigners of "terrorism."

Greenpeace said Thursday that men on the coastguard boats wore balaclavas, fired over 20 shots, and cut the activists' inflatable boats with knives.

"Officers showed absolutely unwarranted brutality and aggression," it said in a statement.

The two arrested activists -- from Finland and Switzerland -- are still being held on the coastguard boat, said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace's Russian office, describing their detention as groundless.

"The federal security service told our lawyer by phone that the activists are 'guests'," while the border guard service said that they have been 'rescued'," Chuprov told AFP.

He also dismissed the foreign ministry accusations, saying the Dutch ship had not violated any laws and was not in any case in Russian waters.

"The statement that we threatened lives and environment is absurd," Chuprov said. "It's a peaceful action. If there was any threat, it was from the coastguard employees who threatened with knives and firearms."

Greenpeace said Gazprom -- the world's largest gas company -- intends to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform in 2014, raising the risk of an oil spill in an area with three nature reserves that is home to polar bears, walruses and rare seabirds.

The organisation argues that the oil platform is "an Arctic disaster waiting to happen".

It had staged a similar action led by its executive director Kumi Naidoo against the same oil rig in August last year.

Gazprom has expanded its oil production operations in recent years and describes the Prirazlomnoye oil field as an essential element of its oil business development strategy.

© 2013 AFP

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