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PRESS RELEASES

24.10.2013

GREENPEACE – ARCTIC SUNRISE - The story of the accident and investigation

The dangerous provocation of the Greenpeace activists against the Prirazlomnaya rig in the Pechora Sea and the following detention of the Arctic Sunrise vessel with its whole team onboard by the Russian Coast Guard has sparked much speculation and rumours, sometimes ill-founded and emotional. We would like to get the record straight on the basis of facts and due process.

 

1. What actually happened in the Pechora Sea?

On 19th September, a group of Greenpeace activists attempted to storm the Prirazlomnaya rig, located in the Pechora Sea in the exclusive economic zone and therefore within exceptional jurisdiction of Russia. The attack was repelled by the Russian Coast Guard, who later arrested the activists’ vessel Arctic Sunrise with the team onboard in strict accordance with the international and Russian law.

The vessel was towed to the port of Murmansk, where all the detainees were put into custody by court for a period of two months to enable the relevant judicial authorities to properly investigate the true motive and purpose of the Greenpeace action.

 

2. How have the activists been treated in Russia?

All the detainees have been treated in compliance with regular judicial procedures applied both to Russian and foreign citizens. Nobody has been discriminated. Thus, immediately after the vessel had entered the port all the activists onboard were granted access to consular representatives of the countries of their nationality. Consuls have been allowed to participate in court’s hearings and regularly visit their nationals in custody.

 

3. What charges have been brought against the activists?

The Investigative Committee of Russia has initiated criminal case №83543 against all the activists detained on board of the Arctic Sunrise. Preliminarily all of them were charged with piracy in accordance with Section 4, Article 227 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Still, as investigation progressed, on 23 October, the Investigative Committee decided to downgrade the charge to that of “hooliganism” under the Article 213 of the Criminal Code.

 

4. What type of law has been violated?

According to the Investigative Committee of Russia there are sufficient reasons to believe that not only Russian legislation, including the Criminal Code, but also at least three articles (56, 60, 80) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (UNCLOS) have been violated by the Greenpeace activists.

 

5. Why the Arctic Sunrise was detained?

The vessel was detained in the Exclusive economic zone of Russia after members of its team entered without permit the 3 mile security zone around the rig, which has special security requirements and is closed for any unauthorised navigation or access, and attempted to disembark unlawfully onto the Prirazlomnaya. Thus, the Arctic Sunrise was used as a definite means to commit the offence.

According to the UNCLOS Article 60, the coastal state has exclusive jurisdiction over safety, immigration, health, customs and fiscal regulation in such areas around platforms. The Convention gives the right to the coastal state to take “appropriate measures to ensure the safety both of navigation and… the artificial installations and structures” there.

 

6. How many British nationals have been detained?

There are six British nationals out of the 30 detainees. All the other activists have various nationalities, including Russian.

 

7. Why the Russian authorities cannot release the detainees?

According to the international practice it is fully up to the Russian courts to investigate the case, define the committed offense and decide who is guilty among the detained vessel’s team and to what extent. The executive power does not have competence here. It should be clear that neither Russian nor foreign parties have the right to exert pressure or interfere with the normal activities of Russian judicial authorities and court. The independence of courts should be respected.

 

8. How soon can the activists be released?

It completely depends on the decision of the court. The person guilty of the“hooliganism” offence under Article 213 of the Criminal Code shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment. Still, as spokesman of the Investigative Committee of Russia Vladimir Markin noticed the detainees refuse to cooperate with the judicial authorities. It is their full right, but will certainly delay the investigation.

 

9. Will Russia participate in the arbitration procedure, initiated by the Dutch authorities in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on 21st October?

No, it will not. When Russia ratified UNCLOS in 1997 we have made a statement on opting out of the procedures of settlement of disputes over sovereign rights and jurisdiction, provided by the Convention, which can lead to binding decisions for the parties. Due to this reservation, we do not accept the arbitration of the Tribunal in the Arctic Sunrise case. Still, we remain open to settling the arising situation.

 

10.What could be the consequences of the action?

The action presented a real danger to the security of the rig, its staff and, what is more, to the local environment, which the activists had in the first place claimed to protect. As the rig was in operation any external interference and attempt to disrupt its work could lead to absolutely unpredictable, catastrophic consequences.

 

11.Is this the first attack against the rig?

No, it is not. In 2012 the same vessel conducted dangerous maneuvers near Prirazlomnaya and a group of its activists disembarked onto the rig. Our immediate appeal to the Netherland authorities to stop the illegal activities of the vessel under the Dutch flag has been left unanswered. This stone-walling by a foreign Government is difficult to comprehend.

 

12.Was Russia aware of a provocation being prepared?

The presence of the Arctic Sunrise in September 2013 in the Pechora Sea was not a surprise for us. Moreover, we repeatedly warned in advance the authorities of the Netherlands that this vessel was planning new actions against the Prirazlomnaya in breach of the international norms. However, the Dutch authorities again failed to take measures to prevent it. We don’t know what advice, if any, they gave to the Greenpeace.

On 18th September, the Arctic Sunrise team made the first attempt to occupy the platform. The vessel was not responding to repeated radio requests and warnings of the Russian Coast Guard and continued the dangerous maneuvers near the rig thus presenting a direct security threat.

 

13.What is known regarding the background of the Arctic Sunrise?

The attack on the Prirazlomnaya rig was not the first action of this sort, carried out by the Greenpeace. For many years we all have been hearing about shady activities of the Arctic Sunrise, which has been engaged in provocations all over the world. It should be mentioned that in all cases they were punished, made to pay big fines for their highly irresponsible behaviour.

 

14.Approach of the Russian Authorities.

We fully understand and empathize with the feelings of the relatives and friends of those who have been detained. Still, we strongly believe that any breach of law must lead to punishment, subject to due process, which is actually the basic principle of the rule of law and democracy.




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