Russian investigators have formally charged 14 of 30 detained Greenpeace campaigners with piracy over an open-sea protest against Arctic oil drilling, an activist says.
Those charged included two Britons, a Finn, Brazilian, a Russian, a Ukranian, a Dutchman, a dual Argentinian and Italian citizen and a dual US and Swedish citizen.
The two Australians and South Australian-based New Zealander being held have no yet been charged.
“The first two activists have been charged with piracy,” Mikhail Kreindlin, a representative of Greenpeace, told AFP. “These activists are from Brazil and Britain.”
He did not provide further details. Piracy by an organised group carries a punishment of between 10 and 15 years.
The charges of piracy came despite the fact that President Vladimir Putin had last week said that the activists “of course are not pirates”. He however said that they did break the law by protesting close to an oil rig.
The first two who were charged include Brazilian crew member Ana Paula Alminhana and British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan.
Russian investigators accused the activists of piracy after several of them tried to scale state energy giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the northern Barents Sea last month. The group has denied the charges and accuses Russia of illegally boarding its ship in international waters.
The 30 activists from 18 countries, including Australia, Britain, the US, Finland and Argentina, are being held in pre-trial detention centres in the cities of Murmansk and Apatity, which are nearly 2000 kilometres north of Moscow and above the Arctic Circle.