Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russia Seizes Greenpeace Vessel at Oil Platform

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russia Seizes Greenpeace Vessel at Oil Platform

Article excerpt

MOSCOW -- Russia's Federal Security Service announced Friday that it had seized a Greenpeace International ship and its crew after a series of protests at an offshore oil rig in the Arctic Ocean and would tow the ship to port in Murmansk to conduct an investigation.

The seizure of the ship Thursday night, which was carried out by armed border guards dropped by helicopter, threatened to escalate into a diplomatic confrontation, since the crew includes citizens of several countries, including the United States. Russia's Foreign Ministry had already issued a protest to the Dutch ambassador, since the ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is registered in the Netherlands and Greenpeace International is based there.

The Federal Security Service, which oversees Russia's border patrol, said in a statement that the ship had been seized under laws governing Russia's exclusive economic zone and that its activities would be reported to the country's Investigative Committee for possible criminal charges. The committee's regional branch, in a separate statement, said it was considering charges of piracy.

The ship was seized in international waters near the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, not far from the island of Novaya Zemlya. The platform, owned by the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, is the first offshore oil rig in the Arctic. It was completed last year and is expected to begin pumping oil next spring.

Greenpeace had dispatched its ship to the area last month to protest what it considers to be the risks of drilling for oil in such an environmentally fragile and largely unspoiled region.

On Wednesday, two of the ship's activists managed to scale the rig and were detained, prompting the initial Russian diplomatic protests.

The border troops had also fired several warning shots during protests, but no one was injured during the storming of the ship Thursday night, according to the security service and Greenpeace. …

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