A day after 28 Greenpeace activists, including one Swiss, were formally charged with piracy by Russia for launching a demonstration on an arctic oil platform, Greenpeace has said it fears they will be convicted to send a message to others.
Two other activists were charged by Russian authorities at an earlier date. Three of those charged are slated to appear in court on October 8; no court date has been set for the remaining protesters.
The charges come after 30 people launched a protest on the Prirazlomnoye oil platform – which is run by the Russian state-owned Gazprom – on September 18.
At a press conference in Zurich on Friday, Greenpeace Switzerland expressed its worry that the activists, each of whom faces 15 years in prison for piracy, could be convicted by Russian authorities so that they could serve as an example and warning to others with similar plans.
The Arctic and its oil and gas reserves form a cornerstone of Russia’s energy strategy, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged on Thursday to continue to expand the country’s presence there.
The father of the Swiss activist Marco Weber, who was the first to ascend the platform during the Greenpeace action, told journalists on Friday that his son, a 28-year-old mountain guide, knew the risks when he went to the Arctic to protest.
“Marco’s action was not reckless; it was risky,” the activist’s father said. “But it was about protecting our natural resources.”
Greenpeace has been keen to promote its cause since the Arctic detentions. Activists briefly interrupted a Champions League football match in Basel on Tuesday evening by unfurling a huge banner inside the stadium aimed at Gazprom and calling for the “Arctic 30” to be freed.
Swiss champions FC Basel could face disciplinary action over the disturbance. The club has expressed its displeasure about the game being used as a platform for political protest and has lodged a criminal complaint.