Russian jail for Greenpeace activists
NICOLE PRYOR, ALEXANDER ROSLYAKOV AND NATALIYA VASILYEVA
Two New Zealand Greenpeace activists face two months in a Russia jail while authorities investigate possible piracy charges.
Kiwi boat mechanic Jonathan Beauchamp and David Haussmann are among 30 activists protesting near a Gazprom oil platform in the Arctic last week when their boat, Arctic Sunrise, was stormed by Russian authorities.
No charges have been brought against anyone in the group, but Reuters reports the courts have ordered 14 activists to be held in custody for two months pending the investigation.
Russian authorities are looking into whether they could be charged with piracy, among other offences.
Beauchamp's partner, Tania Purtle, said she was devastated and just coming to terms with the news.
"I'm really nervous and it hasn't sunken in yet," she said.
"Being Russia I'm really uncertain and I just hope they treat him well."
Russia's investigative committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Reuters that some of those jailed could be released before two months are up as investigators clarified what roles they played in the protest.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the activists weren't pirates, he defended their detention.
The activists are from 18 countries, including Russia, and a long detention or trials could draw unwelcome international attention to Russia's tough policy against protests.
Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said in an emailed statement that "the Russian authorities are trying to scare people who stand up to the oil industry in the Arctic, but this blatant intimidation will not succeed".
Reporters Without Borders said it was appalled by the jailing of the Russian photographer, Denis Sinyakov, saying his arrest was "an unacceptable violation of freedom of information".
The trans-Atlantic security and rights group, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, also voiced concern and demanded Sinyakov's immediate release.
"It is worrisome that Sinyakov was arrested while performing his professional duties as a photojournalist," Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's media freedom representative, wrote in a letter to the Russian investigative committee chief.
Sinyakov is a contributor to various international and Russian media outlets. Several Russian online media outlets said they would take all pictures off their websites in a show of solidarity with Sinyakov.
The platform, which belongs to an oil subsidiary of the state gas company Gazprom, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed in the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said earlier this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no date has been set.
The Arctic Sunrise sails under the Dutch flag. The Netherlands has asked Russia to release the ship and its crew immediately, explain the legal basis for its actions and any charges against the activists.