Russia says some Greenpeace activists to face new charges

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 19:46

Moscow: Russian investigators said Wednesday several of the 30 Greenpeace activists already charged with piracy over their Arctic oil drilling protest were set to face additional charges for "other grave crimes".

The Moscow-based Investigative Committee said the authorities had found "narcotic substances" on the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise ship detained by Russia.

They added that some of the equipment on the vessel was of "dual purpose" and "could have been used not just for ecological purposes".

Investigators also said that they were working to determine who exactly "rammed coast guard motor boats on purpose, preventing border guards from fulfilling their duties" and putting their life and health at risk.

"Taking into consideration the data received in the course of the investigation of the criminal case, the charge already filed against everyone is set to be adjusted," the Investigative Committee said.

"It`s obvious to the investigation that a number of individuals will be charged with committing other grave crimes," it said.

"Also, during the search of the ship narcotic substances have been confiscated -- presumably poppy straw and morphine. The origin of these substances and their purpose is also being established."

Greenpeace spokesman Aaron Gray-Block declined immediate comment.

Last week, Russian investigators charged the ship`s 30 activists from 18 countries, including a freelance photojournalist and freelance videographer, with piracy which carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.

The activists were last month placed in pre-trial detention for two months.

Earlier Wednesday, Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo asked for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, saying he was willing to travel to Russia at any moment to secure the activists` release.

"Were our friends to be released on bail, I offer myself as security against the promise that the 28 Greenpeace International activists will answer for their peaceful protest according to the criminal code of Russia," he said in an open letter to Putin.

Putin has said that the activists "of course are not pirates" but his spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said the Kremlin strongman had expressed his personal opinion.

AFP

First Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 19:46

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