Paul McCartney to Russia's Putin: Release the Arctic 30

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Common Dreams

Paul McCartney to Russia's Putin: Release the Arctic 30

Greenpeace protesters detained in international waters should be brought home to their families, knighted rock-star states

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

In an letter written recently to Vladimir Putin, former 'Fab Four' rocker Paul McCartney urged the Russian president to "use whatever influence you have" to free the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists currently held in a detention facility in St. Petersburg and reunite them with their families.

In the letter the former Beatle says that the "Arctic 30," who were detained while protesting a Russian oil-rig in the Arctic, are peaceful protesters, stating that "non-violence is an essential part of who they are."

"I see you yourself have said that they are not pirates—well, that's something everybody can agree on," McCartney writes.

McCartney notes that when he wrote the "song about Russia" 45 years ago, referring to the track Back in the U.S.S.R., "it wasn't fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country." However, that tune had one of McCartney's 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?" he asks.

He continues:

Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate. Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?

The activists were recently transported from a prison in Murmansk in a "prison wagon" by train to a detention center in St Petersburg.

"It is not yet certain which SIZO (detention center) in St Petersburg they are being taken to or whether the new facility will represent an improvement on conditions compared with their detention in Murmansk," Greenpeace said in a statement.

Ben Ayliffe, Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner, commented:

This is a new chapter in the story of the Arctic 30, but it’s still the same story. They are innocent men and women in jail on trumped up charges, threatened with long term prison sentences for a crime they didn’t commit. In an age of cynicism and political apathy in many countries, the activists did something about an issue they care passionately about. They saw that oil platform as a threat to a fragile, beautiful environment. They protested peacefully, driven by their convictions, and for that they are being unjustly punished. They should be released immediately.

Read McCartney's full letter below:

14th October 2013

Dear Vladimir,

I hope this letter finds you well. It is now more than ten years since I played in Red Square, but I still often think about Russia and the Russian people.

I am writing to you about the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists being held in Murmansk. I hope you will not object to me bringing up their case.

I hear from my Russian friends that the protesters are being portrayed in some quarters as being anti-Russian, that they were doing the bidding of western governments, and that they threatened the safety of the people working on that Arctic oil platform.

I am writing to assure you that the Greenpeace I know is most certainly not an anti-Russian organisation. In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And they never take money from any government or corporation anywhere in the world.

And above all else they are peaceful. In my experience, non-violence is an essential part of who they are.

I see you yourself have said that they are not pirates - well, that's something everybody can agree on. Just as importantly, they don't think they are above the law. They say they are willing to answer for what they actually did, so could there be a way out of this, one that benefits everybody?

Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate. Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?

Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasn't fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country. That song had one of my favourite 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?

I hope, when our schedules allow, we can meet up again soon in Moscow.

Sincerely yours,

Paul McCartney

_____________________

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