30 activists and journalists face up to 7 years in prison for attempting to disrupt Russian Arctic gas drilling
Two Greenpeace activists were arrested six weeks ago by Russian authorities after attempting to board a Gazprom oil rig in the Arctic.
28 others, including two journalists, were arrested a day later aboard a ship in international waters.
Governments around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, and the Netherlands, have called for the release of the activists, who are collectively known as the Arctic 30.
Greenpeace is demanding a cessation to oil drilling in the Arctic.
“The only reason they can drill in the Arctic right now is because we have had record lows of sea ice because of global warming,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace. “We all know global warming is caused by burning oil and coal. And so to go look for more oil in a place that we’ve ruined with global warming is really an insult.”
Radford doubts that Russia’s actions will deter further acts of civil disobedience against oil drilling around the world.
“If we decided that we could only protest in easy places and work to save the environment in easy places, we couldn’t actually save our environment,” says Radford.
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
It’s been six weeks since 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists, the so-called Arctic 30, were arrested after trying to board a Gazprom oil rig at gunpoint by Russian authorities. A few days ago, a fellow activist suspended himself from the Eiffel Tower, calling for the release of the activist and journalist, who could be facing now up to seven years behind bars after Russia dropped the initial charges of piracy.
Now joining us to discuss this is Phil Radford. He’s the executive director of Greenpeace USA. Thank you so much for being with us.
PHIL RADFORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GREENPEACE USA: Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
NOOR: So can you just brief our audience on what exactly these activists were trying to do when they were arrested and the significance of their action?
RADFORD: Well, the 28 activists and the two journalists went to the Arctic because Russia, through Gazprom, a big oil company in Russia, and with Shell oil company were attempting to do the first ever Arctic oil drilling. It’s incredibly dangerous. The Coast Guard calls it a nightmare scenario that there’s if there is an oil spill, beecause it’s so difficult to clean up. And the UN just convened all the world’s best scientists on climate change, and they came to the consensus that if we burn about three-quarters of the remaining oil and coal, then it’s game over for the climate. So we actually need to leave three-quarters, including the Arctic oil, underground.
Now, what they did is two of the individuals took small boats to the oil rig. They climbed up the side and were hanging a banner off of it, basically putting a sign on it. The other 20 were on a ship pretty far away. Russian military came, shot 11 warning shots at them, shot cannons over the the ship. And those two were arrested for doing that protest. They assumed they’d be arrested. They did not assume they’d be charged with piracy, but they knew they would be arrested and took that risk to tell the world about the risk that was happening in Arctic drilling.
Now, what was very unexpected was that a day later, in international waters, the Russian military illegally, using a helicopter, descended onto our ship and arrested the other 28, including two journalists, at gunpoint. Now, that’s illegal. You can’t just board someone else’s ship or some other country’s ship in international waters. But they did it anyway. They towed the ship back to soar. And they originally charged them with piracy, which was lunacy, and now charged them with an equally absurd charge of hooliganism, which under the Russian law requires that these Quaker activists would have been violent, which we know that they weren’t.
NOOR: And what is Greenpeace calling for today?
RADFORD: Well, we’re calling for two things. First is that the world’s governments should abandon their dreams of drilling for oil in the Arctic. The only reason they can drill in the Arctic right now is because we have had record lows of sea ice because of global warming. We all know global warming is caused by burning oil and coal. And so to go look for more oil in a place that we’ve ruined with global warming is really an insult. We should be shifting to clean energy.
The second thing that we are demanding, along with most of the world’s governments, is that Russia releases these peaceful activists immediately. They’ve done about a month and a half of jail time already. For a good period of that time, they never even had charges. You know, to people trespassed; the rest did nothing. They should get a fine, they should be released, and we should go on to talk about more important topics.
NOOR: And what nationality were the protesters? And what is being done on an international level to perhaps pressure Russia to speed up the release of those detained?
RADFORD: The protesters were from over a dozen different countries. Two are U.S. citizens. You know, the U.S. government has been great about urging the Russian government to release people. The Dutch government has sued Russia, saying that the boarding and seizure of the ship and activists in international waters was illegal. The president of Brazil has made several public statements calling for the release of everybody, as has the political leadership in France. So around the world, people are saying this was absurd. Even Hillary Clinton recently said that there should be much greater public outcry over this illegal [capturing] of people in a vessel, and that fundamentally governments need to start to set better rules for what they do in the Arctic around drilling, overfishing, and other environmentally destructive practices.
NOOR: Now, will Russia’s actions deter further acts of civil disobedience targeting climate change and oil drilling around the world?
RADFORD: I doubt it. You know, if we decided that we could only protest in easy places and work to save the environment in easy places, we couldn’t actually save our environment. You know, there are countries from China to Russia to others where it’s crucial that Greenpeace is there, peacefully pushing for a resolution to our environmental problems. And if we didn’t go where it’s hardest, then we couldn’t solve these very hard, complex problems.
NOOR: Thank you so much for joining us.
RADFORD: Thank you.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.