Canadian Greenpeace activist Paul Ruzycki stands inside a defendants' box at a district court building in Murmansk today

Greenpeace activists jailed over Russian oil rig protest

Activists detained by the Russian authorities over a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic have been jailed for two months.

The group of 30 campaigners, including six Britons, were held last week when armed Russian coastguards boarded their vessel the Arctic Sunrise in the Arctic's Pechora Sea after two activists scaled state-owned Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

The ship and protesters have been taken to the port of Murmansk, and Russian authorities said they were investigating charges of piracy, which carry a jail term of 10 to 15 years, against the activists.

Eight men have been denied bail by a Russian court and jailed for two months pending the investigation. They have not been charged. It is anticipated all 30 activists will be jailed for two months pending investigations.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "We are deeply concerned by the decision of the judge to refuse bail, as we await the appearance of the other activists, including six UK nationals.

"Greenpeace and its supporters in the UK will work together to support the activists and their families at this time."

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: "The Russian authorities are trying to scare people who stand up to the oil industry in the Arctic, but this blatant intimidation will not succeed.

"We are resolute in our commitment to protecting the Arctic environment and the world's climate. We call on people in Russia and around the world to stand with our activists and defend their right to peaceful protest."

Russian president Vladimir Putin said yesterday it was "completely obvious" the campaigners were not pirates, but defended the move by the Russian authorities to detain them.

Greenpeace is campaigning against attempts by companies to drill for oil in the waters of the Arctic, warning that a spill would be highly environmentally damaging and extraction of more fossil fuels will add to climate change.

The Prirazlomnaya rig is slated to start operating by the end of the year and is expected to reach peak production of 120,000 barrels per day in 2019, but campaigners say it poses the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law.

In Bulgaria today, police arrested six Greenpeace activists who blocked a Gazprom gas station to protest its Arctic drilling plans. Four of them had chained themselves to fuel pumps and waved banners that read: "Stop Gazprom, Save the Arctic" and "Gazprom = Arctic destruction".

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