Activists thinking about jumping aboard an oil platform to protest Arctic drilling campaigns might want to think twice about such plans if they involve Russia. Twenty-eight activists from Greenpeace and two journalists – now known as the “Arctic 30” – could be facing criminal charges after Russian authorities boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise vessel and took them into custody Sept. 19. The actions by the Russian Coast Guard came a day after two of the protesters reportedly scaled a rig operated by Gazprom, which plans to begin producing oil from the Prirazlomnoye field this year. Three of those arrested have been denied bail, The Guardian reported. Russia’s Investigative Committee in Moscow claimed in a news release Sept. 30 that the activists threatened the security of staff on the platform. Since the Russian authorities say those in custody have given no statements, “investigators have to find those circumstances based on the objective picture of the incident.” “And this picture is the following: a group of people aboard the Arctic Sunrise with a lot of equipment of a so far unidentified purpose broke the 500-m [1,640-ft] security zone of the Prirazlomnaya platform and approached it,” the news release said. “They completely ignored the warnings to sail to a safe distance. Then they launched several inflatable dinghies, [and] the suspects used special tools to haul themselves onto the platform. They also did not fulfill the requirements of authorities to stop their illegal actions, moreover, they undertook a ram attack on the dinghy with the coast guard. All of these actions are considered by investigators as a real threat to the security of the platform’s staff and its property and as resistance to law enforcement agents.” However, Greenpeace disputes the accusations, calling its protest peaceful. The charge being considered by the investigative committee is piracy, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison, according to media reports. “The suggestion that Greenpeace International engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation. The activists climbed Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests,” Greenpeace International’s general counsel Jasper Teulings said. “Over a day after our protest the Russian Coast Guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever. This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment. We will contest these allegations strongly, and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship.” Greenspace claims the Russian Coast Guard boarded its ship outside of territorial waters; however, Russia said the vessel was in its exclusive economic zone, giving it the right to enforce laws in the area. Piracy seems like a far-fetched charge to pursue though. Since when does putting posters on a platform equate to piracy? It doesn’t appear that any acts of violence or detention were committed on Gazprom’s platform. Trespassing charges seem more feasible. Authorities, however, still have valid reason to question the actions of the activists and pursue some type of action, especially if orders were repeatedly disobeyed and those in question were occupying property illegally. Security and safety are still matters of concern no matter where you stand on the Arctic drilling debate. Gazprom said some rig workers were underwater at the time of the protest action, according to a Bloomberg report. This will certainly be an interesting case to watch unfold. Update: Russia has filed piracy charges against the so-called Arctic 30, who now face up to 15 years in prison, Greenpeace said in an e-mail Oct. 3. This goes to show that any threats to the safety of workers on platforms will not be taken lightly by Russian authorities. Anyone thinking about illegally jumping aboard offshore oil and gas facilities in Russian territory to make a statement may want to take their banners and chants elsewhere, even if the planned protests are peaceful. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at vaddison@hartenergy.com.