Russia’s main investigative agency has held 30 Greenpeace activists in custody since their Sept. 18 protest on an Arctic oil drilling platform.
Monday the Investigative Committee said it will finally file charges against them on Wednesday alleging the activists committed an act of piracy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
"They will be charged according to Section 3 of the Criminal Code's Article 227 (piracy committed by an organised group," Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the committee, however, would not confirm the charges for the AFP.
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The committee said the group posed a “real threat” to personnel on the offshore platform.
According to investigators, the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, was inside a 500-meter security zone surrounding an oil platform. They seized equipment on board the ship and say it’s unclear what the activists intended to do with it.
Greenpeace Russia says they didn’t get closer than 500 meters, which is established by international law. Activists used inflatable boat to travel within 500 meters and scale the offshore platform. Greenpeace says the activists posed no threat to the platform or its workers.
Before they were detained, the group complained that Russia would not give their icebreaker ship leave to enter the Northern Sea route. Activists suspected that Russia was attempting to hide their oil drilling developments there.
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Detained in the northern city of Murmansk, inside the Arctic circle, activists are mostly foreign nationals. Two are Russia citizens.
Up until now they have been detained without charge in cold prison cells. After meeting with activists, Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoners' rights watchdog said they lack proper clothing and food.
"Many of them are in a state close to shock," Paikacheva told AFP on Tuesday. "They had never expected that they would face such consequences for their peaceful protest in a democratic state."
Paikacheva also said the foreign nationals have been placed in cells with the Russians, although this is against Russian law. Non-smoking activists also complain that they are locked in cells with smoking prisoners. One Finnish detainee, who does not have a thyroid gland, is vegan and the prison will not serve her food that meets her dietary restrictions. When she asked for vitamin supplements instead, the prison refused.
The Netherlands, where Greenpeace International is based, asked Russia to release the detainees and its ice-breaker ship.
Russian President Vladimir Putin set some at ease last week when he told a television show “of course they are not pirates.”