Russia has “annulled” the arrest of a Greenpeace vessel that was in involved in a high-profile protest against Arctic drilling in the Pechora Sea last year.
Authorities will, however, be continuing their investigation into equipment that was found on board the Arctic Sunrise in a campaign that resulted in the arrest and subsequent release of 30 Greenpeace activists.
In what the environmental watchdog termed was a “surprise move”, Russia’s Investigative Committee informed it on Friday that the ship arrest has been annulled and it is available for the group to reclaim at Murmansk.
Although welcoming the news, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “Our ship was arrested during an entirely peaceful protest against Arctic drilling in international waters. There was absolutely no justification either for boarding the ship or keeping her for eight months.”
Activists from the Arctic Sunrise attempted to scale the Gapzrom Neft Shelf platform Prirazlomnaya in September in an attempt to stop production, which subsequently began.
“This whole affair was a brazen attempt to intimidate those who believe that drilling for oil in the melting Arctic is reckless and unsafe,” Naidoo continued.
Greenpeace will now ask Russian authorities to continue guarding it until it can get its crew in place. It will also get surveyors to assess any damage to the vessel. It is expected to leave Russia in the coming days.
Lawyers for Greenpeace were also informed, however, that the Investigative Committee will continue its probe into equipment found on board the vessel.
It is not known what has suddenly led Russia to release the vessel. However, Moscow is hosting the prestigious World Petroleum Congress exhibition and conference in less than a fortnight, an event that is sure to be targeted by protests as top oil executives and government officials descend on the Russian capital.
When Russia released the so-called “Arctic 30” that were arrested on board the Arctic Sunrise, it was widely believed that it did so to avoid unwanted attention as it hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi.