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Russian authorities have arrested 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 freelance journalists, and charged 14 of them with piracy for boarding an oil platform to peacefully protest drilling in the Arctic by Gazpron, a major Russian oil company.  From the Greenpeace website:

Captain Peter Willcox arrested by Russian authorities. © Igor Podgorny / Greenpeace

On September 26th, the Arctic 30 appeared at a preliminary court hearing in Murmansk (Russia), where most of them were remanded in custody for two months. Now, several of the peaceful activists have been officially charged with piracy.

The Arctic 30 peacefully protested on an off-shore oil platform owned by Russian oil giant Gazprom. When they arrived, the Russian Coast Guard fired warning shots and threatened the activists’ lives. Then, Russian Coast Guard officers illegally boarded and seized the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise via helicopter.

Among those arrested is my former colleague Peter Willcox, captain of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater when we both worked for the parent organization in the mid-1970s. He is captain of the Arctic Sunrise, and a veteran of many Greenpeace actions and campaigns. Peter was also captain of the Rainbow Warrior when the French government bombed and sunk the ship while in port in Auckland, New Zealand.

Piracy carries a maximum prison term of fifteen years. It is not yet known if Peter and the remaining activists and crew members of the Arctic Sunrise will be charged as well. All are being held without bail while investigations continue.

In these pages we have highlighted America’s aggressive intentions in the global race to exploit the melting Arctic (EarthDesk, August 8). But Russia is in the lead with the Gazprom platform.

Said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International:

The Arctic is melting before our eyes, and these brave activists stand in defiance of those who wish to exploit this unfolding crisis to drill for more oil.

Greenpeace is posting live updates of  the evolving drama here.  A bone chilling excerpt:

The nearby Russian Coast Guard ship quickly responds by launching inflatables manned with agents masked in balaclavas. They proceed to ram and slash the Greenpeace inflatables, threaten activists at gun and knife point and fire warning shots from automatic weapons. Further, the remaining crew onboard the Arctic Sunrise count 11 shots fired across the bow from the Coast Guard vessel’s artillery cannon.

Those charged with piracy thus far, according to Greenpeace:

UK activists Alexandra Harris and Philip Ball, Argentinian activist Camila Speziale, Dutch activist Faiza Oulahsen, Dutch crew member Mannes Ubels, Polish activist Tomaz Dziemianczuk, UK activist Anthony Perrett, Russian activist Roman Dolgov, Finnish activist Sini Saarela, Swedish/American activist Dima Litvinov, crew member Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel from Brazil, freelance videographer Kieron Bryan from UK, an unnamed Russian crew member, and an unnamed Ukranian crew member.

More on Captain Peter Willcox here.

Send a letter to the Russian Embassy here.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Russian authorities arrested 30 Greenpeace activists. Russian authorities arrested 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 freelance journalists.