Violent Assault on Greenpeace Activists Scaling Arctic Rig

Peaceful protests against dangerous arctic drilling met with extreme force and seizures; Putin denounces activists as 'violating international law'

Video released by Russian security forces Wednesday shows armed Russian coast guard agents violently shutting down last week's peaceful Greenpeace International protest against a Gazprom-owned offshore drilling rig in Russia's arctic waters.

Russian forces are shown firing gunshots into the water completely unprovoked and dangerously pulling the ropes securing Greenpeace International activists as they descend from the rig, which they had nonviolently scaled in protest of dangerous drilling. Greenpeace's Sini Saarela from Finland yells "I'm coming down!" as Russian forces yank on her climbing ropes. The video was apparently taken from the rig the activists were climbing.

All 'Arctic Sunrise' crew members, who hail from 18 different countries, including the two whose violent detention is depicted in this video, are still under detention near Murmansk and some have been notified they face piracy charges, according to a Greenpeace International statement. As Common Dreamspreviously reported, Russian authorities violently seized the ship 12 hours after activists launched their peaceful protest against Russian oil giant Gazprom last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the seizures Wednesday, declaring the activists had broken international law. Greenpeace International spokespeople insist organizers took great pains to contact Russian authorities and Gazprom to notify them of their planned peaceful protests.

Greenpeace International organizers blasted Putin's claims of wrong-doing. "Let's be absolutely clear about this: the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace International but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas," declared Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace International's Arctic oil campaign.

The Russian Arctic National Park--termed the 'Pearl of the Arctic'--is an important habitat for narwhals, polar bears, and whales. The Russian government has allowed Rosneft and ExxonMobil to conduct exploratory drilling on 450,000 hectares of park land, in direct contradiction of federal laws that protect the park.

Experts say that the sear route near the park, controlled by Russia, is expected to be a key path for export of oil and gas extracted from the arctic.

The Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long journey in the arctic to expose this and other violations of Russian environmental laws.

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