PORT COLBORNE, Ont. — Russian authorities say two Canadian environmental activists will be “brought to justice” after they were arrested aboard a Greenpeace vessel in the Barents Sea last week.
Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., and a woman from Montreal whose name has not been released are among 30 people who could face charges of piracy — punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
They have been detained by Russian authorities since Thursday, Greenpeace said, aboard the organization’s Arctic Sunrise. The vessel was stationed near the Russian Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya Arctic oil platform, in protest of the country’s offshore oil-drilling operations.
Authorities towed the ship and anchored it Tuesday outside the Arctic port city of Murmansk.
Investigators said the protesters’ actions violated Russian sovereignty and they have opened a criminal piracy case.
“When a foreign ship stuffed with electronics of unidentified purpose and a group of people calling themselves activists of the environmental organization are trying to take by storm an oil rig, there are naturally doubts about their intentions,” Russia’s Northwestern Federal District Investigations Directorate said in a statement Tuesday.
Greenpeace dismissed the case and said no charges have yet been laid.
“Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit in international law. We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists,” executive director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement Tuesday.
Patti Stirling, sister of Ruzycki, agreed.
“Don’t panic. That’s what I am telling everyone. No charges have been laid yet,” she said from her Port Colborne home Tuesday.
Jesse Reid, Ruzycki’s nephew who served with him at Greenpeace in the past, said: “Other countries tried to level that (piracy) charge, whether it was a scare tactic or just something they were throwing at the wall to see if it would stick.”
Greenpeace said the activists have been denied access to lawyers and consular officials, though some have reportedly been allowed to contact family.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Beatrice Fenelon said the Canadian government is aware of the situation, but did not offer further details.
“Consular services are being provided to the two Canadian citizens as required. Due to the privacy act, we are not able to share any more information on this matter,” Fenelon said.
- with files from Dave Johnson, Jessica Murphy