This is what oil company 'protection' looks like in the Russian Arctic.
A peaceful protest at an oil rig in the Arctic against risky oil drilling has resulted in two arrests, with Greenpeace activists currently being held at gunpoint by the Russian Coast Guard. The Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise on Thursday.
Camila Speziale, a Greenpeace activist from Argentina on the Arctic Oil Tour gives her account of the events:
"This morning at 4 a.m. I hugged my fellow climbers good luck before heading out to climb Gazprom’s oil platform, the Prirazlomnaya, from the Arctic Sunrise.
It was a terrifying moment for me as I jumped into the inflatable boat in total darkness; I knew the Russian Coast Guard was waiting for us. They had been on our tail since Monday, watching our every move, and I could see the huge water cannons in the distance. But we had a mission and we were determined: to stop the world’s first oil from being produced from ice-filled Arctic waters.
It didn’t take long to reach the platform and when I did, two of the climbers had already managed to get a line up so we could start our ascent. Before I had a chance to scale the platform, two boats headed towards us from the Coast Guard vessel, with people wearing military camouflage clothing and balaclavas. It felt like I was living through a horror movie as they rammed into us. My fellow climber, Sini, fell into the water. Sini looked scared but I know she’s incredibly brave — I admire her so much. We rescued her from the water but they made it extremely difficult for us by continuing to ram our boats.
Amongst all the commotion I heard a gunshot. They were shouting at us in Russian so I couldn’t understand what they were saying but they were pointing guns and knives at us so I knew they were threatening us. All we could do was raise our hands and explain that we were here to protest peacefully. Then I heard another shot. I was so scared for myself and everyone in the inflatables but I was particularly scared for my two friends on the line. Sini, who had managed to get back onto the rope was in a vulnerable position and Kruso who had made it up quite high was being pelted by the water cannons. I never imagined in all my life I’d be threatened with a gun, especially when doing a peaceful non-violent Greenpeace protest.
Half an hour on and the guns were still being fired into the air and water. Sini and Kruso were still taking the brunt of the water cannons — it looked so heavy on their heads. After some time they decided they couldn’t go on any longer and started their descent. But the workers on the platform didn’t notice or didn’t listen — they carried on firing the water cannons at them and the coast guards started pulling their ropes so they’d land in their boat.
They took my friends without saying a word and headed back to the Coast Guard ship. My heart stopped for them. The gunshots continued and I wondered how far these people were willing to go to stop us from protesting against Arctic oil.
I’m back on the Arctic Sunrise where I am safe and warm. But my heart is with my friends and I won’t be happy until we’re all back together.
The Coast Guard has threatened to open fire on the Arctic Sunrise if we don’t leave the area. I don’t know what tonight or tomorrow will bring but I do know that we’re here to stop Gazprom producing the world’s first oil from the icy waters of the Arctic."
Two activists, Sini Saarela and Marco Paolo Weber, were arrested by the Russian Coast Guard and held overnight without charge and denied legal representation.
The Arctic Sunrise is currently under control of the Russian Coast Guard, with a total of 25 activists being held captive.
"Moscow summoned the Dutch ambassador to discuss the issue. Greenpeace is based in the Netherlands and its Arctic Sunrise, which had 25 people aboard, is a Dutch registered vessel. The two people arrested for boarding the rig are of Swiss and Finnish nationality.
The protest is against the environmental risks posed by increased energy exploitation in the Arctic, estimated to hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.
Prirazlomnaya is Russia's first Arctic offshore oil rig and a sensitive project in a country that has made tapping the region's resources a priority. Greenpeace activists last boarded the platform in August.
"The intruders' actions were of aggressive and provocative character and had the outward signs of extremist activity that can lead to people's death and other grave consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement issued before news of the armed raid on the boat.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: "We ask President Putin to restrain the Coast Guard and order them to holster their guns and withdraw. We are a peaceful organisation and our protest has done nothing to warrant this level of aggression."'
Global majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil plan to work in Russia's Arctic waters and Norway is pushing ahead with its own drilling plans.
The Telegraph reports:
"Greenpeace said armed Russian officers stormed its ship, which is protesting over oil exploration in the Arctic, the officers detained all its crew in a locked room.
According to the environmental organisation, men armed with machine guns, had boarded the ship by lowering themselves on ropes from a helicopter.
The group said it believed its Dutch-flagged ship was in international waters when the raid began."
Stay tuned here for updates, and on Twitter, show your support for the activists with #SavetheArctic.