No diplomatic pressure to release Greenpeace activist in Russia
The foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), won’t place political pressure on the Russian government over the piracy charges against Danish Greenpeace activist Anne Mie Roer Jensen.
Jensen is among 30 activists who were arrested on September 19 aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Horizon after two of the activists attempted to board a Gazprom-owned oil rig in the Arctic Ocean.
All 30 have now been presented to a court in the Russian city of Murmansk and charged with piracy, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence.
No diplomatic pressure
While Russian president Vladimir Putin has stated that the Greenpeace activists were “clearly not pirates”, the Danish government is refusing to urge the Russians to drop the charge.
"Experience shows that attempting to politically influence other countries' legal systems in these sorts of cases rarely works,” Søvndal wrote in a comment to Ritzau. “We in Denmark wouldn’t accept that either […]. So at the present time we do not think that we would be serving our country’s best interests, or increasing the likelihood of an early release, if we turn this into a political case.”
Søvndal added that the Danish authorities were doing all they could to help Jensen.
“We have sent an employee from the embassy to visit and help the Dane while the Foreign Ministry has been in contact with her closest relatives in Denmark. We are following the case very closely to make sure all the rules are followed.”
The case has taken on a political dimension in Denmark, where MP Per Clausen (Enhedslisten) told DR Nyheder that ”the government’s passivity toward Russia is completely unacceptable."
The case will also be raised at parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Greenpeace says that the Danish government has provided excellent consular assistance to Jensen following her arrest, but argues that there are diplomatic options that should be pursued.
“We are not demanding a full-scale diplomatic effort, but the government should at least state that the charges are completely absurd and are politically motivated,” Greenpeace spokesperson Jon Burgwald told The Copenhagen Post. “They need to investigate ways of letting the Russian government know that it is completely unacceptable.”
According to Burgwald the protest was a peaceful attempt to highlight the problems of drilling for oil in the Arctic.
The oil rig will be the first to extract oil from beneath the Arctic Ocean, but Greenpeace has warned that the Russian oil company is not prepared to deal with oil spills that could devastate the sensitive Arctic wilderness.
“Right now our top priority is getting our activists free," he said. "But having said that, if the Russians are trying to silence criticism with the charges, then it’s obvious they have shot themselves in the foot.”
A Gazprom spokesperson told RT that Greenpeace’s actions could have had “tragic consequences” and were an “attempt to impose their views”.
“They call the oil spill response plan insolvent, and say the platform does not provide a safe mode of field development,” Gennady Lyubin, executive director of Gazprom Neft Shelf, told RT. “On any statement they say: ‘This is not good, this is bad, this is wrong, all you are doing is wrong,’” Lyubin said, adding that he welcomed a "constructive dialogue" with Greenpeace.