Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko
Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) — Russia said it found drugs on a Greenpeace ship, warning it may file more serious charges against some of the group’s activists already facing as long as 15 years in jail for alleged piracy during an Arctic protest.
Investigators are also trying to determine who among the campaigners was responsible for trying to ram into Russia’s Coast Guard craft, endangering the life of officials, the Investigative Committee said in a website statement today.
The detention of 28 activists and two journalists from 18 countries has provoked a diplomatic row as the Netherlands seeks to force Russia to release the Dutch-registered ship and its crew through international arbitration. Two Greenpeace protesters scaled OAO Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. A day later Russia’s Coast Guard boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters and towed the vessel to Murmansk.
“We can only assume the Russian authorities are referring to the medical supplies that our ships are obliged to carry under maritime law,” Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement. “The ship was first searched by Russian officers weeks ago, they scoured every corner of it, so we assume this announcement is designed to deflect attention from the growing global outrage over the continued imprisonment of the detainees.”
Adding to the tensions with the Netherlands, President Vladimir Putin yesterday demanded a Dutch apology after police arrested a Russian diplomat in The Hague and allegedly beat him in front of his family, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The Netherlands today said the envoy’s diplomatic immunity had been violated and offered its apologies over the incident, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
Two citizens of the Netherlands are among the Greenpeace activists in custody in the port city of Murmansk and their boat, Arctic Sunrise, is Dutch-registered. The country’s authorities said Oct. 4 that they had started arbitration on the basis of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, a decision Greenpeace said it “applauds.”
Russian investigators said they found morphine and opium straw onboard the ship as well as “dual-use” equipment that may have been intended for other than ecological purposes.
Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, sent a letter to Putin asking for a meeting and offered to come to Russia and make himself a personal guarantor of the group’s activists if they are released on bail, according to an e-mailed statement.
Gazprom plans to become the first Russian company to start producing oil in Arctic as soon as this year. Greenpeace activists scaled the same drilling platform in 2012.