Russia accuses Greenpeace of piracy


Greenpeace ship the 'Arctic Sunrise' arrived last 19 February in the Canary Islands, starts a tour of Spain 22 February 2005.


Samuel Aranda

Russia has opened a piracy investigation against Greenpeace activists who tried to board an oil-drilling platform owned by state-owned Gazprom.

The 30 environmental activists were arrested last week after their ship was stormed by the Russian coast guard.

They allegedly pulled their boat, the Arctic Sunrise, alongside the drilling platform, while two activists attempted to board in protest of oil exploration in the region.

Russia's powerful Investigative Committee took up the case, which could lead to up to 15 years in jail or a $15,500 fine for the activists.

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Greenpeace said the dramatic capture by the coast guard, involving helicopters, was illegal because it occurred in international waters.

The two activists who boarded were from Finland and Switzerland. All those aboard the Arctic Sunrise were detained during the incident and locked inside the ship's mess.

Greenpeace lawyers await the activists in Murmansk.

The Greenpeace crew had been using its ship to protest oil exploration in the seas off northern Russia for about three weeks before the incident.

Greenpeace says the Russian government has plans to drill in Arctic National Park, which is a nature reserve.