NORWALK, Conn. -- Greenpeace has rejected claims by Russian authorities that accuse the Arctic Sunrise, captained by Norwalk resident Pete Willcox, of committing criminal violations or piracy in a peaceable protest against oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The Northwestern Federal District Investigations Directorate in Russia has opened a criminal case into possible piracy offences but - despite some media reports - did not confirm that the crew will be charged or prosecuted with piracy, according to a release.
Willcox took a group of Greenpeace members to try to peaceably blockade an area of the Arctic where Russian oil drilling is set to take place.
Willcox and his crew were demanded at gunpoint to return the boat to the Russian port city of Murmansk, but he refused, reports said. The boat is now being towed back to port by Russian authorities.
“Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit in international law," Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. "We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists.”
Greenpeace lawyers are demanding immediate access to the 30 activists who have been held for more than four days without legal assistance. It is still not known whether Russia intends to lay formal charges and Greenpeace has not received any formal contact from the authorities, according to the release.