Greenpeace believes Russia denied its ship access to Arctic waters in order to hide oil drilling exploration it is carrying out in the fragile ecosystem.
Greenpeace reported Wednesday that its icebreaker ship. the Arctic Sunrise, was not allowed to enter the North Sea Route on its way to protest work being done by Rosneft, the leader of Russia's petroleum industry, and its US partner ExxonMobil.
Greenpeace said Russia cited the integrity of the vessel. The group claims Arctic Sunrise has a higher ice classification than many of the vessels allowed into the Northern Sea Route this year, the Association Press reported.
“This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia,” a Greenpeace Arctic campaigner, Christy Ferguson, said in a statement. “The decision to deny us entry to the Kara Sea is completely unjustified and raises serious questions about the level of collusion between the Russian authorities and the oil companies themselves.”
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The environmental group says Arctic Sunrise confronted a Rosneft ship in the Barents Sea last week as it performed powerful seismic sounding tests. They said Rosneft and ExxonMobil had six vessels surveying the area under a work agreement made in August 2011.
“None of the six oil exploration vessels operating for Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the area has an ice classification as high as the Arctic Sunrise,” Ferguson said.
The companies are hoping to tap into vast oil and natural gas reserves buried in the Arctic, slowly becoming accessible as global warming melts the ice, according to Raw Story.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey the region is home to more than a tenth of the world’s undiscovered oil and one third or its natural gas, Raw Story reported.