MOSCOW/HAMBURG, November 6 (RIA Novosti) – As an international tribunal got underway Wednesday in Hamburg over Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Russia, the environmental organization launched boats along the Moscow River in protest over Russia’s boycott of the hearing.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea opened its hearing at 13:00 Moscow time (9:00 GMT) into the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker and its multinational crew, who were arrested after staging a protest near a Russian oil platform in the Arctic in September. The case against Russia was brought to the tribunal by the Netherlands, under whose flag the Arctic Sunrise was sailing.
Greenpeace said boats with flags reading “Free the Arctic 30!” were sailing along the Moscow River not far from the Kremlin on Wednesday with the aim of drawing public attention to the case and in response to Russia’s refusal to take part in the hearings.
The environmental group said on its Twitter feed Wednesday that it was the first time in the history of the tribunal that a country involved in the trial – in this case, Russia – had failed to attend.
The Netherlands is demanding the release of the ship and its crew and the withdrawal of hooliganism charges against the 30 crew members.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said last month that Moscow had informed the Netherlands and the international tribunal that it does not accept the arbitration procedure and would not send its representatives to the hearing.
The ministry said that although Russia ratified in 1997 the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which established the tribunal, the country does not have to participate in disputes that concern “sovereign rights” and “jurisdiction.”
The Arctic Sunrise and its crew were arrested on September 19, a day after several activists from the icebreaker attempted to scale an offshore oil rig belonging to Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom in protest against drilling for oil in the Arctic, which it and other environmental groups oppose because they say it is currently impossible to sufficiently clean up potential oil spills in the region.