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When two Greenpeace activists climbed onto Russia’s state owned Gazprom oil rig in the arctic last month, they were arrested by Russian authorities. The next day Russian authorities illegally boarded Greenpeace’s ship, Arctic Sunrise, and arrested the rest of the group.

The 30 activists are detained in Russia facing charges of piracy, which could carry a 15-year sentence.

Normally, Greenpeace activists get detained overnight by authorities and are then released, happy for the added publicity. For an activist group known as unarmed peaceful protesters, the charge of piracy has outraged many.
Patti Stirling, the sister of Arctic Sunrise’s chief mate Paul Ruzycki, told CBC radio that the Greenpeace community is stunned by the actions taken.

“Every major government knows that Greenpeace never carries weapons, there’s no violence involved,” she said. “They are bearing witness, shooting photos, hanging banners so the rest of the world can know what’s going on. The real pirates in this were in fact the Russian coast guard. They repelled from helicopters in full commando gear, armed, put the crew on the deck with guns to their heads, and then proceeded to break their way into the control room and stop the communication that was being sent out to the world. When the twitter feed died on September 19, all of us stopped breathing.”

Earlier, Ruzycki had informed his sister that they were waiting for the two climbers to be released so they could return to Norway to refuel, expecting things to go as usual since they previously had Russian military on board inspecting their boat to be sure that it was a normal Greenpeace ship. The last twitter she heard from the ship, which came from the captain, was describing the invasion of the coastguard.

“[Greenpeace] was the first to raise the flag that we were losing our cod on the [Canadian] east coast, our fishing industry was in danger,” says Stirling. “They warned us about the clear cutting in British Columbia, the over-whaling going on by the Japanese. This is what they do.”

Protests are already taking place across many countries. Actor Jude Law participated in one in London, along with Vivienne Westwood. “I’ve been a supporter of Greenpeace for many many years,” says Law, “and I’ve been involved with them for the last couple of years. I’m always full of admiration of how they draw attention to what I see as international environmental issues. This particular one drilling in the arctic is a problem that we all know has to be confronted and it has to be resolved. The clue is in the name. They deal with green issues and they do it peacefully.”

Stirling predicts that if there is no action on this there will be a contingent of people around the world converging on Russia’s port in Murmansk.

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