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Rainbow Warrior captain among activists held in Russia
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Sept 26, 2013

Canada presses Russia on Greenpeace detentions
Ottawa (AFP) Sept 26, 2013 - Canadian consular officials are pressing Russia for answers about the detention of two Canadians among 30 activists held for protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, officials said Thursday.

"Consular services are being provided to the two Canadian citizens," foreign ministry spokeswoman Beatrice Fenelon told AFP.

Canadian officials are also "seeking further information about the detentions from local Russian authorities," she added.

Russian border guards took control of the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace protest ship Arctic Sunrise and locked up the activists on Tuesday after they attempted to scale state energy giant Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in protest over exploration in the Barents Sea.

The border guards fired warning shots and detained two activists under armed guard, according to Greenpeace.

After sliding down ropes from helicopters, the guards seized the vessel then towed the ship to the port of Murmansk, where the activists were held for questioning.

On Thursday, a Russian court ordered several of the activists detained for two months for alleged piracy, including Paul Ruzycki from Canada, and was expected to rule on the others soon.

The captain of the ship, US citizen Peter Willcox, was also given the same term. The veteran activist captained Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship when it was bombed by French agents in 1985.

Greenpeace said another Canadian, Alexandre Paul, was also being detained pending a court appearance in the northern port city.

The non-governmental group's Canadian office said it has requested a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird but has not heard back.

Baird has pointed to Greenpeace's past "provocative actions on the high seas."

"Obviously, it needs to follow all the specific rules and regulations with respect to navigation," he added.

A veteran Greenpeace campaigner who was the captain of the ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed and sunk by French secret services in New Zealand in 1985 is among the activists detained by Russia for a protest in the Arctic.

Peter Willcox, a US citizen and the captain of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, was the captain of the environmental group's Rainbow Warrior vessel which was campaigning against French nuclear testing in the Pacific when it was sunk by French agents in New Zealand's Auckland Harbour.

He is one of 30 activists being held by Russia after a high seas protest against oil drilling in the Arctic by the Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier this month.

The Dutch-flagged vessel was seized by the Russian security forces who winched down from a helicopter in a commando-style operation last week.

Also among those held is Dmitri Litvinov, a Swedish national of Russian origin, who is the great-grandson of Maxim Litvinov, who was Soviet foreign minister for almost a decade under Joseph Stalin and held key ambassador posts under Vladimir Lenin.

The arrest of Willcox, who along with several other activists was Thursday ordered to stay in detention for two months, is just another chapter in an extraordinary career of activism with the group.

He first joined the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace campaign ship in July 1981.

"By October I was captain, and stayed on as the only captain until the boat was blown up by French agents in New Zealand," he wrote in a recent blog published by the environmental lobby group.

"Since 1981, I guess about 90 percent of my life has been skippering Greenpeace boats."

'The Arctic must be saved from oil drilling'

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior -- which claimed the life of a photographer working for Greenpeace -- is one of the most controversial acts ever committed by a government against an ecological group.

Two divers from the French foreign intelligence service attached two mines to the vessel and the explosion of the second mine killed photographer Fernando Pereira who had returned to the boat to collect his equipment. The ship sank as a result.

The French government initially tried to cover up its involvement but later admitted responsibility.

The grizzled sea captain Willcox, who is in his sixties, grew up in South Norwalk, Connecticut. He started activist sailing in his youth on board the campaign boat Clearwater founded by folk singer Pete Seeger.

Willcox, who has also recently captained a new Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior in the Amazon, appears to have never lost his zeal for campaigning.

"I'm sure everyone here on the Arctic Sunrise with me agrees that the Arctic must be saved from oil drilling, but if you're in doubt, just think about what a different place this planet would be without its polar deep freeze at the top of the world," he said in comments published by Greenpeace ahead of his arrest.

Greenpeace USA executive director Phil Radford said: "Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world fail to respond to catastrophic climate change, and that's why we need people like Captain Willcox."

Litvinov, 52, was born into a dissident family in what was then the Soviet Union, but when he was 12 the family was expelled and moved to the United States.

According to Greenpeace Sweden's website, he decided to become an environmental activist in 1987. In 1994, he and his family moved to Sweden.


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Russian court to rule on jailing Greenpeace activists
Moscow (AFP) Sept 26, 2013
A Russian court on Thursday began considering whether to prolong the detention of 30 Greenpeace activists suspected of piracy after they held a high seas protest on an Arctic oil platform. The Lenin district court in the northern city of Murmansk on Thursday morning opened a hearing into the activists, including 26 foreigners, who launched a protest on an oil rig from Greenpeace's Arctic Sun ... read more

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