SALEKHARD, Russia — Russia announced Tuesday that it had opened a piracy investigation against the crew of a Greenpeace ship after its activists scaled an offshore oil platform in the Arctic last week.
The step signaled that the authorities intended to act decisively to thwart more protests against Russia’s ambitious plans to expand energy exploration in the region.
The Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized by Russian border guards in international waters in the Pechora Sea last Thursday,.
That came a day after several members of the crew tried to board the Prirazlomnaya platform, which is operated by the Russian state energy giant Gazprom.
The ship has since been towed to port in Murmansk.
Its crew of 30, held incommunicado since the seizure, includes citizens of 18 countries, among them one American, raising the prospect of a diplomatic confrontation given the gravity of the piracy charges, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
President Vladimir Putin has long complained of foreign interference in Russia’s internal affairs, but the seizure of the ship and the threat of piracy charges reflected an escalation of the government’s response to it, as well as the sensitivity of the country’s Arctic strategy.
Greenpeace reported that representatives of several embassies had arrived in Murmansk to meet with their respective citizens aboard the ship, which remained anchored in Kola Bay on Tuesday evening.
NEW YORK TIMES