The long saga of the Greenpeace activists, whose ship, Artic Sunrise, was seized by Russian coast guard officials, continues today as at least five members, so far, have been charged with piracy. If convicted, the protesters could remain in a Russian prison for up to 15 years. According to Greenpeace, over a million messages in support of the activists have been sent to Russian embassies worldwide. Supporters can go to the Greenpeace website at any time and view a live timeline of the events, which gives accounts from the beginning as the events happen, revealing the fate of the activists.
The website timeline begins on September 18, when four inflatable rafts leave the Artic Sunrise and proceed to the oil platform of the Prirazlomnaya, a rig belonging to Gazprom, a Russian energy company. The protestors chose this particular oil rig for protest, claiming it to be the first to start production in Artic waters and will threaten the Artic environment.
In a link on the website, readers can live through the initial encounter of the activists with the Russian FSB border service, by going to the blog of 21-year old Camila Speziale, an activist from Argentina. In the blog, Speziale describes, in minute detail, the events that felt like, “I was living in a horror movie.” She recounts how the Russian Coast Guard had been following the Artic Sunrise for days. On Sept 18, in the cover of darkness, she and other protestors set out in four rafts with the intentions of boarding the Prirazlomnaya for a “peaceful protest.” As the rafts arrived at the platform, she recounts how she could see their “huge water cannons” in the distance. As the protestors began climbing up the side of the Prirazlomnaya, the Coast Guard rammed the ship. Two protestors, only identified by Speziale as Sini and Kruso, were pelted by the water cannons, while warning gunshots were fired in the air. As they began to climb down the ropes, the coast guard manipulated the ropes so that they would eventually land in the coast guard’s ship. As the two were taken into custody, Speziale, said, “My heart stopped for them and I wondered how far these people would go to stop us.” The Artic Sunrise was seized and then towed to Murmansk on Sept 24, where 30 people on board were placed under arrest.
The dramatic account of the unfolding events surrounding the arrests of those on board the Artic Sunrise continues daily, hourly, and by minutes. The Greenpeace website also lists the names, country of origin, and fate of all the activists, from their initial arrest to today’s charges. So far the activists charged with piracy include: Roman Dolgov from Russia, Sini Saarela of Finland, Dimi Litvinov a Swedish/American, Anthony Prewitt, Philip Ball, and Alexandra Harris from the UK, Camila Speziale from Argentina, Faiza Oulahsen a Dutch protester, and Tomaz Dziemianczuk from Poland. Crew members of the Artic Sunrise who are also being charged with piracy are Mannes Ubels and two unnamed Ukrainian and Russian crewmembers.
As the story continues to unfold, the plight of the Greenpeace activists has become an international movement with the latest show of support at the Basel-Schalke Champions League Match, where a huge banner flew over the stadium proclaiming, “Don’t Foul the Artic, Free the Artic 30.” Watching the Greenpeace website live timeline is like watching the clock ticking on a time bomb and gives readers an up-to-the-minute story of the fate of these activists as the consequences they are facing becomes more and more real.
By: Lisa Nance