Paul McCartney Urges Putin to Free Greenpeace ‘Arctic 30’

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November 14, 2013

Greenpeace ship “Arctic Sunrise” (C) is seen anchored outside the Arctic port city of Murmansk, on the day when members of Russian Investigation Committee conducted an inspection onboard the Greenpeace ship, in this September 28, 2013. Mandatory Credit. REUTERS/Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters

Henry Meyer

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) — Paul McCartney wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to free Greenpeace activists arrested for protesting against Arctic oil drilling.

“Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair,” McCartney, who was taken on a tour of the Kremlin by the Russian leader and played before him in a 2003 concert on Red Square, said in a letter to Putin dated Oct. 14 and posted on his website today.

Russia has faced worldwide protests by the environmental group and a legal claim from the Netherlands since it detained 30 people for participating in a Greenpeace protest at an offshore oil platform in September, impounding their ship and charging them with piracy, which is punishable by as long as 15 years in prison. Prosecutors have since reduced the charges to hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

“The Greenpeace I know is most certainly not an anti- Russian organisation,” McCartney wrote. “In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And above all else they are peaceful.”

Two protesters sought to scale state-run OAO Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil 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 the port city of Murmansk, where 28 activists as well as a photographer and a videographer were detained and charged with piracy. The Russian authorities on Nov. 11 moved the Greenpeace detainees to the country’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, easing consular access to them.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

The full letter is copied below:

14th October 2013

Dear Vladimir,

I hope this letter finds you well. It is now more than ten years since I played in Red Square, but I still often think about Russia and the Russian people.

I am writing to you about the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists being held in Murmansk. I hope you will not object to me bringing up their case.

I hear from my Russian friends that the protesters are being portrayed in some quarters as being anti-Russian, that they were doing the bidding of western governments, and that they threatened the safety of the people working on that Arctic oil platform.

I am writing to assure you that the Greenpeace I know is most certainly not an anti-Russian organisation. In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And they never take money from any government or corporation anywhere in the world.

And above all else they are peaceful. In my experience, non-violence is an essential part of who they are.

I see you yourself have said that they are not pirates – well, that’s something everybody can agree on. Just as importantly, they don’t think they are above the law. They say they are willing to answer for what they actually did, so could there be a way out of this, one that benefits everybody?

Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate. Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?

Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasn’t fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country. That song had one of my favourite Beatles lines in it: “Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it’s good to be back home.”

Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?

I hope, when our schedules allow, we can meet up again soon in Moscow.

Sincerely yours,

Paul McCartney

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