Greenpeace activists storm Russian oil rig

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Aug. 24 2012 8:05 a.m. MDT

Greenpeace activists including Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, board energy giant Gazprom's Arctic oil platform Prirazlomnaya off the North-eastern coast of Russia in the Pechora Sea on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. Greenpeace activists have stormed a floating oil rig in Russia’s Pechora Sea to protest oil drilling in the Arctic, the environmental organization said on Friday.

Denis Sinyakov, Greenpeace, Associated Press

MOSCOW — Greenpeace activists stormed a floating Russian oil rig early Friday in the open sea to protest oil drilling in the Arctic, the environmental organization said.

The six activists, who include Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo, set off from their ship in inflatable speedboats and scaled the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, the group said. They remain hanging off the side of the rig, attached to the platform's mooring lines.

At first, crew members were friendly and offered them soup, but later started spraying them with icy water, Naidoo said, tweeting while still suspended from the rig. Two helicopters arrived at the platform, but left without disturbing the protesters. The activists managed to put a banner on the rig saying "Don't kill the Arctic."

"We're here peacefully and we will continue to draw the attention of Russian people and people around the world to what's happening there," Naidoo told The Associated Press by telephone from the platform. "It's bad for Russia, it's bad for the planet."

Prirazlomnaya is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Russian energy company Gazprom, which is pioneering Russia's oil drilling in the Arctic. The state-owned company installed the platform there last year and is preparing to drill the first well.

One of Naidoo's tweets said "Gazprom crew told to make life difficult; regular blasts of icy water." An accompanying photo showed a stream of water hitting two of the activists.

Gazprom told the AP in an emailed statement that the activists "have been invited to scale up to the platform for a constructive dialogue," but said that they refused. The company said that "all work on the platform proceeds as normal."

Naidoo, a South African, said the five activists with him include two from Germany, and one each from the United States, Canada and Finland.

The platform is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port, Murmansk, a city on the extreme northwestern edge of the Russian mainland.

Greenpeace said that its activists have supplies to last "for an extended stay."

Russian and international environmentalists have warned that drilling in the Russian Arctic could have disastrous consequences because of a lack of technology and infrastructure to deal with a possible spill in a remote region known for huge icebergs and severe storms.

An AP investigation last year found that at least 1 percent of Russia's annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year.

A report by Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund, issued last week, said that a spill from Prirazlomnaya could contaminate protected areas and nature reserves on the shore and islands within 20 hours, while emergency teams would take at least three days to reach the area.

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