Greenpeace to protest seizure of Arctic ship in Russia

Moscow, Sep 21 (IANS/EFE) Greenpeace, the global voluntary environmental organisation, announced Friday that it would organise protests in different parts of the world to demand that Russia releases its Arctic Sunrise ship and 25-member crew.

The ship was seized by Russia's federal security service FSB, which controls the border guards. It has accused the vessel's captain of carrying out "unlawful activities".

According to the coordinator of Greenpeace Russia's Arctic programme, Yevgenia Belyakova, the international environmental watchdog's Moscow office has been unable to communicate with the Arctic Sunrise's crew since Thursday night, when it learned that Russian coast guard personnel had boarded the vessel.

"We've called on all our offices to join the protest against (Thursday's) seizure of the ship. The delegations in Finland, Switzerland and Germany have already confirmed they will participate," Belyakova said.

The protests will take place Friday outside the foreign offices of Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom, which is prospecting for oil and gas in Arctic waters, she added.

Russia's FSB intelligence service, meanwhile, said in a statement that it had decided to tow the icebreaker to the northwestern port of Murmansk. Legal action also is being prepared against the ship's crew, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the FSB's statement.

On Tuesday, the Russian coast guard fired warning shots after members of the Arctic Sunrise's crew tried to tie themselves to Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya rig to protest the company's oil exploration activities.

Gazprom's plans to begin oil production with that rig in the first quarter of 2014 increase the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three natural reserves protected under Russian law, according to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organisation, has offices in over 40 countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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