SHARE
(Image courtesy of Greenpeace)

Russian authorities have begun charging Greenpeace activists with piracy over a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

The protests took place at the Prirazlomnaya platform owned by the state-controlled energy company Gazprom last month, when a Greenpeace icebreaker approached the rig and two activists tried to climb aboard.

The piracy charges are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

By Wednesday evening, 15 people had been charged, according to Greenpeace.

The charged members included a Brazilian crew member Ana Paula Alminhana, Russian activist Roman Dolgov, Finnish activist Sini Saarela, British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan, and Swedish-American Dima Litvinov.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said, “It is an extreme and disproportionate charge. A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.”

President Vladimir Putin stated last week the protesters were clearly not pirates, but they had violated international law.