Russia says court ruling on Greenpeace Boat Seizure will encourage illegal protests

Russia has rejected a recent ruling by the Vienna-based international arbitration panel, which said that the country must pay damages for seizing Netherlands-flagged Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise (built 1975, known until 1995 as Polabjorn) in international waters in 2013. Russia said on July 20th that the decision would serve to encourage further illegal protests.

Artyom Kozhin, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman, said at a news briefing that “We have to state with regret that by its actions the arbitration panel is in fact encouraging deliberately unlawful action in states’ exclusive economic zones and on their continental shelf, justifying it as so-called ‘peaceful’ protest”.

Russian Federal Security Service agents captured the vessel after Greenpeace had protested against an oil platform, detaining those on board Arctic Sunrise in Russian prisons for several months, only releasing them shortly before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

On July 18th the court said that Russia must pay the Netherlands more than €5m ($5.8m) in damages for seizing the boat and arresting the people aboard.

Kozhin further claimed that the panel’s original 2015 decision that Russia was liable failed to take into account “a direct threat to the safety of the (oil) platform and its personnel created by the actions of Greenpeace activists. The relevant Russian bodies were forced to act to use lawful steps to stop the dangerous illegal behaviour”.

Russia had originally declined to take part in arbitration, arguing that it was acting within its sovereign rights to seize the ship in international waters where Russia enjoys exclusive economic rights. Activists had earlier tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform, operated by Russian state energy firm Gazprom.