Russia charged 30 environmental activists with piracy last week, after they climbed atop an arctic oilrig in September. Now Russian investigator say they are going to charge the Greenpeace protesters with “other grave crimes” after they allegedly discovered drugs aboard their icebreaker ship.
Greenpeace International, based out of the Netherlands, has called the allegation a “smear” campaign.
Russia seized the ship, Arctic Sunrise, after the Sept. 18 protest and claimed some equipment on board was “dual purpose” and “could have been used not just for ecological purposes.”
The “narcotic substances (probably poppy straw and morphine) were confiscated during the search on the ship,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, in a statement Wednesday.
Greenpeace says the morphine must be carried on the ship to comply with maritime law.
“We assume the Russian claims of drugs found on ship refer to the medical supplies we are obliged to carry under maritime law,” the Greenpeace Twitter account @gp_sunrise tweeted Wednesday.
The group says the allegation that investigators found poppy straw, the husks of opium pods, is “a fabrication, pure and simple.”
A Russian court ordered the activists be detained without charge until November. Last week, piracy charges were filed against all the detainees, 28 of whom are foreign nationals.
The committee says that given the “new evidence” the charges against them could be “modified.”
Greenpeace maintains that, “Any claim that something other than medical supplies was found should be regarded with great suspicion."
“Before leaving Norway for the Russian Arctic, the ship was searched with a sniffer dog by the Norwegian authorities, as is standard," Greenpeace said on its website. "The laws in Norway are amongst the strictest in the world, and nothing was found because nothing illegal was on the ship."
The Netherlands has already filed a lawsuit in international maritime court asking for the immediate release of the Dutch-register icebreaker ship and the 30 crewmembers.
Environmental activists in 170 cities in 45 countries called for a worldwide day of solidarity Saturday for the 30 activists charged with piracy.