Greenpeace activists not pirates, Vladimir Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Greenpeace activists apprehended after trying to scale an offshore oil platform aren't pirates, but defended the detention saying Coast Guard officers had no way of knowing who they were.

2 Canadians among 30 activists being questioned by Russian investigators

This image made available by Greenpeace shows five activists attempting to climb the Prirazlomnaya, an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, in the Pechora Sea last Wednesday. The environmental groups said Tuesday two Canadians detained by Russian authorities following the incident have been visited by Canadian diplomats. (Denis Sinyakov, Greenpeace/Associated Press) )

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Greenpeace activists apprehended after trying to scale an offshore oil platform aren't pirates, but defended the detention saying Coast Guard officers had no way of knowing who they were.

Two members of the group were detained Sept. 18 in their attempt to scale the Arctic platform. The Coast Guard seized Greenpeace's ship the next day and towed it with 30 activists aboard, to Murmansk, where they are being questioned by investigators considering piracy charges.

I don't know the details of what went on, but it's completely obvious they aren't pirates.- Russian President Vladimir Putin

Putin, speaking at a forum on Arctic affairs, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying: "I don't know the details of what went on, but it's completely obvious they aren't pirates."

He added, however, that the officers "didn't know who was trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace. Especially in view of the events in Kenya, really, anything can happen."

It was unclear whether Putin's comments might foreshadow leniency for the activists, who could face 10-15 years in prison if convicted of piracy.

The detained activists are from 18 countries, including Russia, and a long detention or trials could draw unwelcome international attention to Russia's tough policy against protests. Two of the activists are Canadian. 

The platform, belonging to state natural gas company Gazprom, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom has said it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.

Greenpeace insisted that under international law Russia had no right to board its ship and has no grounds to charge its activists with piracy.

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