Paul McCartney urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the detained Greenpeace protesters the Russians arrested last September 18. The protesters numbering 30 were arrested and detained for piracy and hooliganism charges over an incident that happened in an Arctic oil rig. The former Beatle assured Putin the protesters are not anti-Russians and were not working for any Western government. He added that they were just staging a protest at a Russian oil-drilling platform as what they usually do.
In the letter addressed to Putin, McCartney wrote which was also posted on his website, “In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And they never take money from any government or corporation anywhere in the world.” It would be great if the protesters will be released in time for Christmas, he added.
Greenpeace Volunteers Charged with Piracy
When the Greenpeace volunteers, including a photographer and a videographer, were arrested they were immediately charged with piracy and hooliganism at the port city of Murmansk. The piracy charges were later dropped. Even with the reduced complaint leveled against the non-government environmental organization they are still facing a maximum of seven years in prison. And just recently, the protesters were transferred to a St. Petersburg prison.
Reference to the Beatles Song “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
In the letter, McCartney goes back to an earlier popular Beatles song he co-wrote entitled “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and pleaded with Putin:
“That song had one of my favorite 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’.”
The composer of several Beatles hit songs (together with long-time collaborator John Lennon) like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” likewise added to his plea that the caught protesters are willing to take responsibility for their actions and asks Putin to find a winning solution over this matter where everybody involved can benefit.
McCartney Not Alone in Support of Greenpeace
Aside from the famous Beatle, other well-known personalities lent their voices in demanding the reduction of the charges filed against the protesters. Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates earlier sent a letter addressed to Putin urging him to be more lenient in dealing with the protesters. Included in this elite group of signatories is the South African anti-apartheid advocate Desmond Tutu who described Greenpeace’s activity as “a peaceful, non-violent protest.” It was not clear though, if the pressure exerted by the Nobel Peace Prize winners is one of the reasons why the charges were reduced by the Russian government.
Greenpeace Scaled the Prirazlomnaya Oil Rig
After the Greenpeace occupied the Prirazlomnaya oil rig to stage their protest, the Russian coastguards then forcibly boarded their ship, The Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise icebreaker and towed it to the port city of Murmansk. From Murmansk, the protesters were immediately arrested and detained.
Putin clarified that the protesters, coming from 18 different countries, are not pirates but they nonetheless violated Russian law and that is the reason for their arrests. And on Thursday, a local Murmansk court has denied bail to another two of the activists namely Colin Russel of Australia and Mannes Ubels of the Netherlands.
Greenpeace founded in 1969, is an international organization with an international coordinating office at Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The organization is primarily involved in the advocacy against global warming, overfishing, deforestation, genetic engineering, nuclear use among others. Greenpeace likewise receives worldwide attention because of the various methods it utilizes to dramatize its protests like boarding ships, scaling buildings and other unconventional ways.
With this recent involvement, the world have noticed again what Greenpeace did and the corresponding actions done by the Russian government. With Christmas time just around the corner, Paul McCartney and the rest hope that the detained Greenpeace protesters will be released by the Russians soon.
By Roberto I. Belda