Greenpeace says 14 people — four crew members of its ship Arctic Sunrise, nine activists and a freelance videographer — have been charged with piracy after protesting at an Arctic oil platform owned by the Russian state-controlled energy company Gazprom last month.
The piracy charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years if there is a conviction.
- Greenpeace activists, including 2 Canadians, jailed in Russia
- Greenpeace activists not pirates, Vladimir Putin says
The Russian Coast Guard seized a Greenpeace ship and all 30 people from 18 countries aboard following the Sept. 18 protest at the offshore platform.
The environmental group said charges have been brought against crew members Ana Paula Alminhana of Brazil, Mannes Ubels of Holland and two others whose names were not released. The unnamed crew members are from Russia and Ukraine, a Greenpeace spokesperson said.
British activists Anthony Perrett, Alexandra Harris and Philip Ball and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan were also charged Wednesday morning, along with Russian activist Roamn Dolgov, Sinni Saarela of Finland, Swedish-American Dima Litvinov, Camila Speziale of Argentina, Faiza Oulahsen of Holland and Tomaz Dziemianczuk of Poland.
It is not yet known whether Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., who was serving as the ship's chief mate, and Montrealer Alexandre Paul, who served as bosun, along with the 14 others aboard Arctic Sunrise will face similar charges.
Greenpeace said in a statement that the remaining activists — including Ruzycki and Paul — are expected to be charged on Thursday.
The charges contradict a statement Russian President Vladimir Putin made following the initial detention of the activists.
Putin made the statement, quoted by Interfax news agency, while speaking at a forum on Arctic affairs. "I don't know the details of what went on, but it's completely obvious they aren't pirates," Putin said.
He defended the coast guard officers, however, saying they "didn't know who was trying to seize the platform" at the time and that in light of "what happened in Kenya, really, anything can happen."
Putin was referring to the attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi last month that resulted in at least 72 deaths. The Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Russian investigators said the ship had violated the 500-metre security zone around the platform and that it was carrying equipment whose purpose was still unclear.
Greenpeace has said its ship stayed out of this zone and its inflatable boats, used by activists to reach the platform, posed no danger.
The activists have been in custody in the northern city of Murmansk since last week.