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Greenpeace defies ban and sails its icebreaker into Arctic waters in protest over oil drilling

By The Siberian Times reporter
24 August 2013

Russian officials refused to allow the vessel to enter the Northern Sea Route which Greenpeace dubbed 'a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest'.

The group claim polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife are directly threatened, and that a spill could wreck the ecosystem. The defiance may lead to a tense stand-off with the Russian authorities. Picture: Will Rose, Greenpeace 

The authorities said they doubted the Arctic Sunrise's ability to cope with thick ice. On Saturday it was claimed the icebreaker was sailing without a permit to protest at plans by Russian giant Rosneft and its US partner ExxonMobil to drill near the Russian Arctic National Park.

The group claim polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife are directly threatened, and that a spill could wreck the ecosystem. The defiance may lead to a tense stand-off with the Russian authorities. 

'We refuse to let illegal attempts by the Russian government to stop us from exposing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic', said Greenpeace campaigner Christy Ferguson aboard the vessel.

'The Russian Arctic National Park is a special place full of rare and threatened Arctic wildlife, and faces an infinitely greater threat from reckless oil companies than a fully equipped Greenpeace icebreaker'.

The group claim Russia is flouting its own environmental laws by permitting drilling to go ahead. 

'If Rosneft and ExxonMobil bring in offshore drilling platforms they will risk catastrophic blowouts and spills that could devastate the region', said Ferguson, accusing the two oil majors 'rely on secrecy and evasion'.

Greenpeace said the ban on allowing it to sail in Siberian waters were 'in violation of international law including the right to freedom of navigation'.

Rosneft has stated the it and its partners are in compliance with all international requirements and environmental standards in the Arctic waters. 

'Science-driven measures for the study of the geological environment of the region and sections on the shelf cannot have a negative impact on the region's ecological situation,' said a company spokesman. 

'Ecological safety is the most important priority in Rosneft's operations. The modern nature-protection technologies being applied by the company meet world standards and are directed at preventing a negative effect on the environment,' the comany told Interfax.

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