We will continue to fight, vows Greenpeace

2013-10-23 12:40
Greenpeace International contracted freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov sitting in a defendant cage in a court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. (Igor Podgorny, AFP)

Greenpeace International contracted freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov sitting in a defendant cage in a court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. (Igor Podgorny, AFP)

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Cape Town - Despite the arrest of several activists in Russia, environmental organisation Greenpeace has vowed that it will not alter its methodology.

"Not at all; this is our modus operandi and it's the kind of system of operation that we believe brings results. From our perspective, we will continue to do that," Greenpeace Africa executive director Michael O'Brien Onyeka told News24 about the reaction following the Russian action.

Russian authorities arrested 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists for conducting a protest action against oil drilling in the Arctic.

They are charged with piracy which carries a maximum 15 year prison sentence in Russia and several high profile people have called on President Vladimir Putin to release the activists.

Putin himself has said the activists are not pirates, but his spokesperson later backtracked from that statement, saying that the president was expressing an opinion.

Release call

Greenpeace said that their protest methods were effective, despite the Russian experience.

"We believe this is a non-violent direct action method, and of course we do take into cognisance and do proper assessment of security of our personnel.

"The Russian situation has not in any way made us consider shifting" our strategy, said O'Brien Onyeka.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and others have called on the Russian government to release the Greenpeace activists.

The crew stands accused of piracy charges after attempting to scale a Gazprom oil platform to highlight the dangers of drilling for oil in the Arctic region.

Many in the international community are concerned that oil pollution in the Arctic may result in an environmental disaster that would impossible to contain during winter.

Both the Dutch and German governments have also pressured Russia to release the activists.

Support

"From our perspective, the tide to roll back the threats and climate changes on our planet is not a popularity contest. We don't do it so people will love us or give us more money," O'Brien Onyeka asserted.

Greenpeace said that people generally supported their campaigns. The arrests have highlighted the danger faced by foreign nationals participating in such actions.

"We have received over 1.5 million supportive actions around the world from different organisations; from different individuals," said O'Brien Onyeka.

He slammed oil companies which have expressed interest in the Arctic, which is believed to hold around 30% of the world's undiscovered oil reserves.

Royal Dutch Shell has suspended its drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas after being chastised for its operations and while maintenance work is carried out on its rigs.

"Drilling in the Arctic will put everybody's life in danger around the world and Gazprom has not shown any due diligence previously in all their explorations," said O'Brien Onyeka.

He said that Greenpeace was prepared to take a stand against the exploitation of the Arctic on principle grounds.

"We think it's reckless cowboy adventurism that they're doing in the Arctic and we've literally drawn a line in the ice to say 'Come no further'."


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