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Moscow (AFP) – Greenpeace activists detained in Russia for a protest against Arctic oil drilling will be formally charged with piracy on Wednesday, the Interfax news agency said.
If found guilty, the 30 detained activists could face a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail.
“They will be charged… (with) piracy committed by an organised group,” Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying on Tuesday.
The source said the 30 detained activists will be charged in the northern city of Murmansk.
A Greenpeace representative said that the group’s legal team had been advised that only two activists would be charged on Wednesday — dual US-Swedish national Dima Litvinov, a spokesman for the organisation, and Finn Sini Saarela.
“We have had no formal information of what charges will be laid against the two activists in question. Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists would be absurd and have no merit in international nor Russian law,” Greenpeace spokesman Aaron Gray-Block said.
President Vladimir Putin last week raised hopes that the activists would face lesser charges when he said that they “are not pirates”, but had nonethless broken international law by protesting close to a Russian oil rig.
The crew of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker was detained last month over the protest and detained for two months.
They are now in pre-trial detention centres in the cities of Murmansk and Apatity, nearly 2,000 kilometres north of Moscow and above the Arctic circle.