Russia has dismissed legal action taken by the Netherlands against Moscow over its detention and prosecution of Greenpeace activists for protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic. On Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov described the group's protest at the partially-constructed Prirazlomnaya platform -- Russia's first offshore oil rig in the Arctic which is owned by the state-controlled Gazprom -- as "pure provocation." He further noted that Russia had repeatedly called on the Netherlands to stop the "illegal activity" of the Dutch-registered Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, and its 30-strong crew. "Unfortunately, this was not done. Therefore, we have far more questions for the Dutch side than they can have for us," Meshkov pointed out, adding, "Everything that happened with the Arctic Sunrise was pure provocation." The Netherlands filed a lawsuit against Russia in the UN's Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on Friday, in a bid to win the immediate release of the ship and those onboard.
"The Netherlands today began an arbitration procedure on the basis of the (United Nations) Convention on the Law of the Sea," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote in a letter to the parliament.Greenpeace lawyer, Jasper Teulings, also stated, "Russian officials will now be called to explain their actions before an international court of law, where [they] will be unable to justify these absurd piracy allegations." All 30 Greenpeace activists are currently being held in custody in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. Earlier this week, Russian authorities pressed piracy charges against them, which is punishable with up to 15 years in prison. The Greenpeace activists, who hail from 18 countries, were detained on September 18, while boarding Prirazlomnaya oil platform. Greenpeace insists that the activists merely intended to stage a peaceful protest in international waters to highlight the environmental risks posed by oil drilling in Arctic waters. Greenpeace activists will be holding rallies in 170 locations across 45 countries on Saturday to condemn the arrests. MP/SS