Pirates Scoff at Russian Greenpeace Arrests


Photo of Greenpeace Vessel Arctic Sunrise by Roberta F [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Thirty Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by Russia for a protest held on an oil rig, an accusation that the International Piracy Federation (IPF) says dilutes their brand.

The charges stem from actions taken by activists aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise on September 18. On that day, the vessel circled the Russian Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Pechora Sea, while three crew members tried to board the platform.

Greenpeace protests against oil drilling in the area for fear that it will harm the local environment and contribute to further climate change. According to Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo:

The Arctic is melting before our eyes, and these brave activists stand in defiance of those who wish to exploit this unfolding crisis to drill for more oil.

According to Gazprom, the Russian energy company that owns the rig, the environmentalists actions were dangerous and harmful. Gennady Lyubin, an executive director of Gazprom has stated:

No one imagined that people on high-speed inflatable boats would start moving to the platform… they tried to reach the helipad… we are all lucky to not have had tragic consequences.

The specific charge of piracy however, which carries a potential 15 year prison term has drawn the ire of many. Naidoo described the charge as an “accusation of an imaginary offence,”and John Sauven of the Guardian has said that “applying piracy legislation to peaceful protesters exposes the nakedness of the prosecuting emperor.” Even Vladimir Putin seems to agree as he has stated that the activists were “clearly not pirates.”

Captain Jorum Oranjstache, who serves on the Board of the IPF argues that the Greenpeace activists should clearly not be considered pirates, although he expressed approval of their ship’s name noting that it had a particularly nice ring. He worried that “equating a bunch of tree huggers with the International brotherhood of piracy” would harm the interests of both groups.

The Captain also noted that the goals of the environmentalists are not traditionally those pursued by pirates. He thought that pursuing oil, or Black Gold, in the Arctic might be an interesting growth area for his trade group, but that Greenpeace did not seem to want to grab the wealth for themselves. He agreed that historically pirates have been known to bury their treasure to prevent others from recovering it, but that this was always a last ditch option for those in desperate straits.

According to Oranjstache, a well known Oligarch who holds both Russian citizenship and membership in the IPF was working the back channels in an attempt to quietly dismiss the piracy charges, but unfortunately would not be available for comment.


Howard Pyle “An Attack on a Galleon” (1921)