September 25, 2013

Putin speaks about Greenpeace ship now held by Russia

NY Times "President Vladimir V. Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian authorities were justified in seizing a Greenpeace International ship at an offshore oil platform in the Arctic last week, but he questioned whether the activities of the ship’s 30 crew members warranted the piracy charges that Russian authorities said they would pursue." By STEVEN LEE MYERS and ANDREW ROTH

'“I don’t know the details of what happened there,” Mr. Putin said here at an international conference on the Arctic, “but obviously they are not pirates. However, formally, they tried to seize our platform.”

'The ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was towed into the port of Murmansk on Tuesday, five days after armed border guards descended from helicopters and took control of it. The crew, which includes an American captain, Peter Willcox, and citizens of 17 other countries, is being detained and questioned in Murmansk, Russian officials said. By Wednesday evening, 14 crew members had been questioned by investigators, according to Greenpeace, and diplomats from several countries had been to see the crew. 

'Mr. Putin appeared intent on defusing potential diplomatic tensions over the episode. He said Greenpeace had clearly violated international law by sending activists from the ship in inflatable boats to try to board the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea. 

'Though the ship was distinctly painted with Greenpeace’s logo, Mr. Putin said that Russian security officials could not be sure of the activists’ identity or intentions. 

'“Our border guards did not know who was trying to seize our platform under the disguise of Greenpeace,” Mr. Putin said. Referring to the deadly terrorist attack on the shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which began after the Arctic Sunrise was already in tow, Mr. Putin added, “Especially, in the context of the bloody events that took place in Kenya, anything might have happened.”'

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