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Shocking: This Is What Russia Is Doing To Forcefully Curb Protests Against Oil Drilling In The Arctic

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By Ignatius Joseph:

Twenty eight Greenpeace activists and a freelance video journalist and a photographer were formally charged with piracy under Article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code on October 2nd and 3rd, 2013. The maximum sentence they face is 15 years in a Russian jail. They are currently being held in a number of prisons in and around the city of Murmansk in North West Russia while Greenpeace International lawyers have lodged formal appeals in the Murmansk court against their continued detention.

A Russian Coast guard officer points a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as two activists attempted to climb a Gazprom oil platform to hang a banner

Picture: A Russian Coast guard officer points a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as two activists attempted to climb a Gazprom oil platform to hang a banner

The 28 Greenpeace activists and the two journalists, from the ship, Arctic Sunrise, now known as the Arctic 30, were protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic on September 18, 2013 in Russia’s Pechora Sea. Two Greenpeace International activists attempted to climb the side of an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom when they were stopped at gunpoint by the Russian Coast Guard. The activists were protesting against Gazprom drilling for oil in the fragile Arctic region. Subsequently, all 28 activists and the two freelance journalists were arrested by the Russian authorities and they have all now been charged with piracy.

Greenpeace International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo said “Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen, they are accused of an imaginary offence. There can be no doubt about why the charge of piracy has been brought and the legal hammer wielded. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest. An effort is underway to intimidate us, but our peaceful passionate campaign against Gazprom and all other Arctic drillers will not be silenced. A profound injustice is right now being perpetrated against our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who sit in jail. I call on people across the world to stand with us against Gazprom and all oil companies who want to drill in the Arctic, join us in this fight against bullies of the very worst kind.”

Greenpeace International activist Faiza Oulahsen (from the Netherlands) at the Leninsky District Court Of Murmansk

Picture: Greenpeace International activist Faiza Oulahsen (from the Netherlands) at the Leninsky District Court Of Murmansk

Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have called for the release of the activists. Greenpeace has also released a letter written by Faiza Oulahsen, 26, one of the Arctic 30, a Dutch environmentalist currently detained in Murmansk. In the letter, penned shortly before she was charged on October 3, she says: “I have no idea how this is going to end, or how long it’s going to take.” She describes the experience of sitting through hearings in a cage and living in a prison cell that is “ice cold” and where the lights are never turned off. “I started to lose the calmness and self-control I had been using the past couple of days, slowly but surely. Two months in a cell is one thing, but what comes after that? A sentence of a few months or a few years in a case based on lies?”

Greenpeace strongly rejects this extreme and disproportionate charge of piracy against its activists and the journalists. The organisation has been protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic because it destroys people’s livelihoods and wildlife such as polar bears, narwhals, walrus and other species in this pristine region. The Arctic ice is melting rapidly due to climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels like oil; it is absurd to drill for more oil here risking an oil spill that can cause huge devastation.

Protests demanding the release of the Arctic 30

Picture: Protests demanding the release of the Arctic 30

Currently, over 60 organisations have issued statements of concern and support for the Arctic 30, while almost 10,00,000 people have written letters to Russian Embassies worldwide demanding their release. On Saturday October 5th, thousands of people around the world took part in a global day of solidarity with the Arctic 30. Peaceful events were planned on every continent in well over 80 cities in 50 countries. In India, protests were planned in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore among other cities.

For more information and to show your support for the activists visit here.

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  1. arpit goel

    Shocking! the only place that is inhabitable and untouched by any human claim or wars is now being exploited due to geographical advantages, driven by greed of Oil and Money. Pathetic. I had better reasons to believe, russia to be a good country after Cold War. But is it the new dawn of the new century that we are about to see/…while rich countrys driven by capitalist gains want More!

    Sad and deeply hurt with the ruthless rape of Mother Nature taking place and peaceful citizens Organisations not having a say in the name of “nation’s internal policy matters”.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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