The big news today was the statement made by the Russian Investigative Committee regarding the progress of the investigation into 'circumstances of assault on Prirazlomnaya platform'. Key points from the statement:
'part of the equipment [aboard the Arctic Sunrise] is double-purpose and could have been used in the interests of the environmental protection',
'during the examination of the ship the investigators seized narcotics (presumably opium straw and morphine). The specialists are looking into their origin and purpose.' ,
'The investigators are now identifying the people who deliberately rammed the coast guard boats preventing the coast guards from doing their job. By these actions the accused made an attempt on lives and health of the representatives of the authority.'
The full text of the statement can be found here in English: http://en.sledcom.ru/actual/358663/ and in Russian: http://www.sledcom.ru/actual/358647/
Greenpeace have angrily responded, stating that any drugs aboard the vessel are part of the legally mandated medical supplies, that were locked in a safe. There is a strict policy on Greenpeace ships that forbids recreational substances, and the ship underwent a full inspection by Norwegian authorities, including with sniffer dogs, upon arrival in that country before proceeding towards the oil rig.
It would also seem that, given the ship's position outside of Russian territorial waters until its capture, it is irrelevant what narcotic substances were on board. National drug laws do not apply on the high seas.
The organisation also denies that any Greenpeace vessel rammed any of the FSB boats. You may remember that in my opinion piece, written on October 3rd, I mentioned that this was difficult to judge. 'At one point, a Greenpeace inflatable collides with a Russian FSB boat, though it is difficult to tell is this is a deliberate ramming or simply a loss of control in the rough seas.'
The full Greenpeace statement on this issue can be found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Russian-claims-over-boat-ramming-a-fantasy---Greenpeace-International/ This includes a link to a video of the alleged incident.
Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin, offering himself in exchange for the release of the thirty detaineees.
The key line relating to Kieron is this:
'I also respectfully ask that the two independent freelancers, who are not Greenpeace members, be immediately freed.'
The BBC has a summary of these developments here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24461644
It is difficult to say exactly what to make of this news. It is possible to interpret this as a reaction from the Russians in realisation that the piracy charge does not stand up, and they are seeking other reasons to hold the thirty from the ship in custody. A small crumb of comfort can be taken from the last paragraph of the statement:
'Given the information the investigators are getting during the probe, the charges brought against the accused will be corrected. However, it is obvious for the investigators that some of the accused will be charged with other serious crimes.'
A positive reading of this is the piracy charges will be dropped, and the activists who tried to climb the platform and those aboard the inflatable boats that may have rammed the Russian boats will be charged with aggravated trespass and reckless endangerment, or the Russian equivalents.
The Guardian carried coverage of the story today. This arcticle also contains a video interview with Andy and Ann:
It also contains a link to this website!
Foreign Office Minister, David Lidington, updated Parliament on the situation in a written statement today. The BBC covered this news here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24462045 , and the full text of the statement can be found at gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/arrest-of-6-british-nationals-in-russia
The statement contains this line, regarding William Hague's comments on the issue:
'The Foreign Secretary said we would remain in close contact with all other nations whose citizens were involved, and make representations to the Russian authorities if necessary.'
Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, added his support on Twitter. One of the other British detainees, Alex Harris, also has connections to his constituency.
'in touch with Foreign Office and families of Kieron and Alex. Working with Kieron's MP and pushing hard.'
Kieron's MP is Harriet Harman. We saw yesterday that she is fully behind the campaign. Today Harriet released the following statement:
“I strongly believe that my constituent Kieron Bryan should not be in detention in Russia and am calling on the Russians to release him immediately. He is not a criminal or a threat to the Russian state. He is not even a member of Greenpeace; he is a professional journalist working on an assignment for them.
“I have today written to the Russian Ambassador calling on the Russian authorities to release Kieron, asking for them to agree that his parents can visit him in detention, and asking them to help his parents get a visa so they can travel to Murmansk to visit him.
“I am also asking them to allow Kieron’s parents to speak to him on the phone. It is unfair that they have not been able to speak to him during the past 3 weeks.
“I have met his parents and brother. This is an extremely worrying time for Kieron’s family. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare that their child is arrested and held on the other side of the world. I know that the Foreign Secretary and his ministers, the Foreign Office and consular officials are doing everything they can to help Kieron”.
Thanks again to Harriet Harman for her support.
The increasing involvement of the British government is encouraging. Nicholas Milton in the Guardian suggests that the best way to resolve this is through careful diplomacy:
'... the organisation needs to find a way of allowing the Russian authorities to drop the charges without losing face, for example by fining them or making them persona non grata.'
Let's hope William Hague and the UK government can help to achieve this. However it happens, we all want to Free Kieron as soon as possible.