Russia dismisses Dutch legal action over Greenpeace activists


MOSCOW/LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Russia shrugged off Dutchlegal action over its detention and prosecution of Greenpeaceactivists for piracy on Saturday as protesters took to thestreets internationally to call for the 30 detainees to befreed.

The Netherlands launched legal proceedings against Russia onFriday, saying it had unlawfully detained activists and otherson the Dutch-registered ship last month as it protested againstdrilling in the Arctic.

Two Dutch citizens were among 30 people on board the ArcticSunrise, which was seized by Russian authorities near thePrirazlomnaya offshore oil platform.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told state-run newsagency RIA Novosti that Russia had repeatedly asked theNetherlands to halt what Russia said was "illegal activity" bythe ship.

"Unfortunately, this was not done. Therefore, we have farmore questions for the Dutch side than they can have for us,"RIA quoted Meshkov as saying.

"Everything that happened with the Arctic Sunrise was pureprovocation."

Russian authorities have pressed piracy charges, which couldresult in prison sentences of 15 years.


Greenpeace said it was holding up to 100 protests in about48 countries on Saturday to call for the detainees to be freed.

In London up to 700 people demonstrated outside the RussianEmbassy with six Britons among those arrested by Russia.

Actor Jude Law, who knows one of the arrested Britonsthrough his children's school, was among the protesters callingfor Russia to release the detainees and condemning the chargesof piracy as "ludicrous".

"They go into these situatons often expecting arrest and thearrests draw more attention which is a positive but ... thepossibility of a 15-year prison stretch is beyond reason," Lawtold the BBC.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has raised thecase with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Officialssaid Britain's concerns were based on "consular" issues ofwelfare.

The Dutch government contests the "unlawful manner" in whichthe ship was intercepted and is seeking the release of all itspassengers, who include 28 activists and two freelancejournalists.

Greenpeace says the activists had been engaged in a peacefulprotest in international waters to highlight the environmentalrisks posed by drilling in Arctic waters.

The group says Russian officials boarded its icebreaker anddetained activists at gunpoint after the group pilotedmotorboats toward an exploration vessel working for Russia's topoil producer, the state-controlled Rosneft, and globalmajor ExxonMobil.

Two activists also scaled the side of the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya platform, actions Russia's ForeignMinistry said threatened security.

As well as the Dutch and British citizens, the groupincludes four Russians, two Argentines, two Canadians, two NewZealanders, a man with Swedish and U.S. citizenship and onenational each from the United States, Australia, Brazil,Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey andUkraine.

The activists are currently being held in custody in thenorthern Russian city of Murmansk.

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