Greenpeace Launches Global Campaign to Free Arctic Activists Held in Russian Jail

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Posted Oct. 23, 2013

Interview with Britt Cocanour, Greenpeace public outreach director, conducted by Scott Harris


On Sept. 18, members of the environmental activist group Greenpeace boarded and attempted to scale a Russian-owned Gazprom oil drilling rig in the Arctic Ocean. The Russian military responded to the nonviolent direct action protest – designed to draw attention to the environmental hazards of drilling for fossil fuels in the Arctic – by firing guns and brandishing knives. All 28 crew members of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, and two freelance journalists that accompanied them were arrested by the Russian government. The activists and their ship were taken to the northern Russian city of Murmansk.

Held in a Murmansk jail without bail, the Greenpeace crew have been charged with piracy, an offense that carries a 15-year sentence in Russia, and are now awaiting court proceedings to adjudicate their case. Greenpeace and its allies around the world have organized protests in 36 nations to pressure the Russian government to release the “Arctic 30,” as they’re being called. Eleven Nobel Peace prize recipients have also formally called on the Russians to set the Greenpeace crew free.

The Netherlands, where the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is registered, has filed a lawsuit against Russia at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, seeking the release of the ship and its passengers. The imprisoned activists are from 18 different countries. The ship’s captain, Peter Wilcox the only American citizen on board and a Greenpeace veteran, was captain of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French intelligence agents in 1985, which killed one crew member. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Britt Cocanour, Greenpeace public outreach director, who discusses the ongoing campaign to free the Arctic 30, and the environmental concerns that motivated the activists to engage in the non-violent protest on the Russian oil rig.

For more perspectives on the detention of the Greenpeace activists and concerns over exploiting fossil fuels in the Arctic region, visit

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