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Senior Dutch diplomat beaten up in Russia
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Oct 16, 2013


Merkel voices concern to Putin over Greenpeace detentions
Berlin (AFP) Oct 16, 2013 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the detention of 30 Greenpeace members who had protested Arctic drilling.

The environmental activists have been held on piracy charges in the northern region of Murmansk for almost three weeks after their ship Arctic Sunrise was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation.

"The chancellor expressed her concern to Putin over the arrests of the crew of the Greenpeace boat being held in Russia and expressed her hope that this case will soon be resolved," Merkel's spokesman said.

A Kremlin statement made no mention of the Greenpeace issue but said only that Putin and Merkel had "addressed pressing international and bilateral issues" in the phone call.

Two of the activists had climbed onto an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest its drilling in a sensitive Arctic environment which Greenpeace says risks environmental catastrophe.

The Russian authorities have now charged all 30 crew members with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. The so-called "Arctic 30" have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24.

Greenpeace demo Briton held in Russia 'terrified': family
London (AFP) Oct 16, 2013 - The father of one of the six Britons being held in a Russian jail after they were arrested during a Greenpeace protest against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic said Wednesday she was "terrified".

After relatives met Foreign Office officials in London to discuss the case, Clifford Harris revealed that his daugher Alexandra was the only one of the six to have been able to telephone her family in the past four weeks.

"We spoke to her five days ago. She is terrified. It is the unknown. The conditions are pretty basic compared to the conditions you'd expect in this country," he told a news conference after the meeting.

"But it is the Russian way of doing things so you've got to respect that."

All 30 environmentalists on board Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise ship were arrested by Russian forces in a commando-style operation when two activists tried to scale an oil rig on September 18.

They are being held in the port city of Murmansk in northwest Russia.

Russian authorities have charged all 30 with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment.

"It is a horrendous situation," said Russell Bryan, whose 29-year-old brother Kieron is among those being held.

"Kieron is a filmmaker and a journalist. He should not be in this situation.

"I am incredibly angry. The charges are crazy, they are absolutely ludicrous.

"The reality of thinking of Kieron doing a 15-year stretch is heartbreaking."

Sue Turner, the mother of Iain Rogers, who is second engineer on the Arctic Sunrise, said although the activists who climbed onto the rig may have committed a crime, the ship's crew were in international waters and so had done nothing wrong.

"I think the people who stayed on Arctic Sunrise and were in international waters should not have been arrested," she said.

But Turner added that she believed the Russian authorities were "making a big statement, saying 'don't do it again'", but would not eventually prosecute the activists for piracy.

The so-called "Arctic 30" have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24.

The families said the Foreign Office officials they met seemed "positive" of a successful outcome to the case.

The crew of the ship hail from a range of countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday voiced concern to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the detentions.

A senior Dutch diplomat at The Netherlands embassy in Moscow was beaten up at his home in the Russian capital by unknown attackers who scrawled the letters "LGBT" on a mirror with lipstick, officials said Wednesday.

The incident comes amid growing tensions between Russia and The Netherlands over the arrest by the Russian authorities of the 30 crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship and the brief detention of a Russian diplomat in the Netherlands.

The flare-up between two states whose friendship dates back to Tsar Peter the Great's visits to learn the shipbuilding trade in The Netherlands is particularly embarrassing coming during a Russian-Dutch Bilateral Year aimed at promoting cultural ties.

The deputy head of the Dutch mission in Moscow, Onno Elderenbosch, was approached at his home by men who presented themselves as electricians and then beat him up, Russian news reports and officials said.

The intruders who broke into his flat took nothing but scrawled in pink lipstick the letters LGBT (standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and a drawing of a heart, the Interfax news agency and lifenews.ru website quoted a security source as saying.

The diplomat, 60, was not badly harmed and did not seek medical attention, the reports added.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which handles criminal probes into major crimes, confirmed that a Dutch citizen had been attacked on Tuesday evening.

It said in a statement that the intruders had bound the diplomat with tape and later fled the scene. A criminal inquiry has been opened into an illegal break-in.

The Russian foreign ministry expressed regret over the "sad incident" and said the Russian security forces were doing everything to detain the individuals behind the attack.

"The Russian side is ready for close cooperation with the Dutch partners for an exhaustive explanation of the circumstances of the incident," it said in a statement.

'Russia must take its responsibilities'

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans confirmed the attack on his Facebook page, saying that Elderenbosch was assaulted by two intruders. He said he had called the diplomat, who was now doing fine.

Timmermans added that he was summoning the Russian ambassador for explanations over attack on Elderenbosch, who is the number two diplomat at the embassy in Moscow.

"Our citizens must be able to work in all security and I want assurances from the Russian authorities that they are going to take their responsibilities on this point," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in The Netherlands that the incident was serious but emphasised "it is very important to work out what happened step by step".

He declined to say whether the attack would affect a visit to Russia by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima planned in November to mark the end of the Russian-Dutch year.

A US State Department spokeswoman condemned the attack, saying Washington was "disturbed by a reported anti-LGBT element".

"It is crucial for the Russian government to ensure a climate of tolerance," she said.

Tensions between Russia and The Netherlands surged last week when police in The Hague detained a Russian diplomat over accusations he was mistreating his children. The Netherlands later apologised for breaching the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Lifenews.ru said that the intruders to Elderenbosch's flat in central Moscow had told him there was no light on his floor and asked if they could check the electricity in his apartment.

"When the diplomat opened the door, he was hit in the back and he fell, hitting his head on the floor," it quoted a security source as saying. "The intruders then bound him and turned the apartment upside down."

The Netherlands has launched legal action to free the Greenpeace activists, who have been charged with piracy and face up to 15 years in jail.

The Greenpeace crew have been held in Murmansk for almost three weeks after their Arctic Sunrise ship was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation in Arctic waters.

Two of their activists climbed up an oil platform owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom which plans to start producing the first oil from Russian Arctic waters next year.

The so-called "Arctic 30" have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24 and courts have so far rejected all requests for bail.

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