On the 18th of September thirty people were arrested by the Russian authorities for attempting to scale an oil platform in protest against plans, made by state-owned oil company Gazprom, to begin exploratory drilling in the arctic. As the process has never before been carried out in the region it’s consequences are hard to gauge, but Greenpeace believe that if the plans are allowed to go ahead then the world could be faced with an uncontrollable oil spill of previously unseen proportions and type, which would render the current methods used to tackle spills inadequate.
Greenpeace’s effort to scale the Oil Rig was made to highlight these beliefs, but instead succeeded in raising international concerns regarding Russia’s increasing authoritarian Government. The severe, and most would say disproportionate, treatment of the protesters (each was arrested under charges of piracy and later Hooliganism), has drawn worldwide attention to Putin’s regime and raised questions that cannot remain ignored.
Russian authorities are currently holding 28 members of Greenpeace under charges of ‘hooliganism’, accusing them of having incited unrest through their actions. Although some may argue that the risk of a custodial sentence is justified as Greenpeace frequently cause disruption to large companies through their high profile publicity stunts, most would agree that the charges are disproportionate to the peaceful actions that the protesters took; their intention was simply to hang a banner from the platform and was in no way violent or aggressive. But this type of overreaction is not new to Russia as can be seen in the incarceration of the activist music band ‘Pussy Riot’. Russia is increasingly asserting its authoritarian powers over political activists and their treatment of Greenpeace is no different. However, because Greenpeace is made up of members of varying nationalities, international attention has been drawn to Russia’s severe reactions and raised questions over Putin’s rule and intentions whilst succeeding in giving Greenpeace an international platform through which to publicise their views on the arctic drilling.
So, without actually managing to hang their banner, Greenpeace have succeeded in publicising their doubts surrounding the exploratory drilling in the arctic whilst raising questions and criticisms regarding Russia’s treatment of protesters and the tactics Putin has been employing to remain in office.
Currently the activists are being detained in jail cells awaiting the outcome of their trials. Not only do they wait with little hope of the Russian government dropping the charges, but they have to endure the bitter cold and poor conditions of the jail cells in which they inhabit. Can you help the Arctic 30 achieve a fair trial? Greenpeace are currently holding campaigns to send letters to Russian envoys and to the 30, with an aim to bring hope to the protesters and make sure they know they have not been forgotten. If you feel they have been unfairly treated then why not send a letter yourself, if anything it gives hope to those in need.
For up to date information on the Arctic 30, follow the campaign to free them at – http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/