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Earlier this morning we had a remarkable phone call from Murmansk.
It was from the team of lawyers representing Greenpeace International telling us that the Russian Investigative Committee (IC) had decided to release the Arctic Sunrise, after nearly nine months of illegal detention in this remote Arctic port.
The Arctic Sunrise was illegally seized at gunpoint in international waters by Russian commandos last September after a peaceful protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya Arctic oil platform in the Pechora Sea. The 28 activists and two freelance journalists onboard were kept for months in jail on spurious charges of piracy and then hooliganism, before finally being granted a Parliamentary amnesty at the end of December last year.
The ship got no such amnesty. Instead she has been left unattended and unloved to rust quietly in a corner of the port far away from prying eyes.
Thankfully, her ordeal should soon be over. Our lawyers have signed the papers and she’s officially back in our hands. Millions of people from around the world spoke out against the illegal imprisonment of the Arctic 30, and today the final member of the group is free to come home.
Our first priority is to make sure the Sunrise is seaworthy. Nine months is a long time for an icebreaker to go without basic maintenance, let alone the sort of care and attention she usually gets from her crew.
But like our campaign to protect the Arctic I guarantee she will emerge better, fitter and even stronger than before.
The Arctic Sunrise should never have been detained in the first place. There was absolutely no justification for her being boarded, seized and kept for so long in Murmansk, not least when the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered her immediate release in November 2013.
This whole affair has been a brazen attempt to intimidate those who believe that drilling for oil in the melting Arctic is reckless and unsafe.
Thank you to all of those who stood with the Arctic 30 and the Arctic Sunrise. Only together will we Save the Arctic. As the world warms and the ice melts this is fast becoming an era defining battle, and we are determined to win it.
Ben Ayliffe is head of the Arctic oil campaign at Greenpeace UK.