The Greenpeace activists abroad the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker are accused of piracy for trying to stage a protest against oil extraction in the Pechora Sea. They may face 10-15 years in prison.

Thirty crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker will be prosecuted in connection with their attack on the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. Photo: ITAR-TASS

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, has announced that 30 crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker will be prosecuted in connection with their attack on the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Pechora Sea.

"In the early hours of Sept. 25, investigators from the Investigative Committee's department for the Northwestern Federal District detained 30 crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise as suspects of an attack against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. A criminal case has been opened based on Article 91 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure," Markin told Interfax.

So far three of the four Russian activists part of the crew have been questioned.

"The foreign citizens who were aboard the vessel have not been questioned. The investigators are working on providing them with interpreters because they cannot be questioned without interpreters," Markin said.

Irina Paikacheva, chairman of a public observer concerned with the respect of human rights in detention facilities in the Murmansk region, revealed that the detained Greenpeace activists have been placed in the Murmansk region's temporary detention facilities.

"Eight people are in the Leninsky district, nine are in the Oktyabrsky district, and the location of the others is currently unknown. We are looking for them," she said.

The public observer commission intends to seek a meeting with the detainees who are in the temporary detention facility in the Leninsky district.

Greenpeace's Russian office said that diplomats and lawyers are not allowed to enter the Murmansk branch of the Investigative Committee and that investigators are not accepting warrants for individuals to represent the detainees' interests.

"About 16 investigators, some of which have come from other cities, have arrived in Murmansk," Greenpeace environmentalists said.

Greenpeace said they had sent a request to the Russian Investigative Committee for materials on the detention of the Arctic Sunrise crew and its activists in the Pechora Sea. Among the detainees are the citizens of 19 countries.

On Sept. 19, a special task unit of the Russian Border Guard Service stormed the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise in the Pechora Sea for trying to stage a protest against oil extraction on the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. The vessel was conveyed by border guards to the port of Murmansk. The vessel and its crew of 30, which included citizens from various countries, were taken to Murmansk.

The Investigative Committee's department for the Northwestern Federal District has opened a case for crimes described under Article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code (piracy by an organized group of people).

The Greenpeace action at the Prirazlomnaya oilrig jeopardized human life and health, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the third international forum, "The Arctic - Territory of Dialogue".

"Anything was possible: operators could have made a mistake and technological failures could have occurred. They created circumstances that threatened health and lives. Are such PR actions worth the possibility of such severe consequences?" Putin wondered.

"We are inclined to cooperate with all partners and all environmental organizations but we think that this work should be civilized," Putin said. "We want not just to hear but also to listen to one another and take the necessary measures for environmental protection."

Not a single Russian company carrying out shelf projects has ever reported serious accidents, he said. "I hope they never will. That is because we are using the newest technologies," Putin said.

Putin has asked Arctic states to pay attention to the conservation of rare wildlife species, including walruses.

This article first appeared in Russia Beyond The Headlines.The story is based on materials of Interfax.