Six campaigners staged a dramatic pre-dawn raid on Gazprom early today, clambering onto the company's floating production base in the Pechora Sea.
Activists, seen here under a 'shower' of icy water claimed the action was to highlight concern over the oil spills risks. Picture: Greenpeace
'Six climbers have taken up positions on the structure and have interrupted the platform's operations,' the group said in a statement.
'The activists are out of reach and have enough supplies to last them for several days.'
Gazprom's version was that Greenpeace had failed to disrupt work on the Prirazlomnaya platform.
'They were invited aboard the platform for a constructive dialogue,' said a spokesman. 'But they refused and said they would prefer to hang off the platform instead.'
Prirazlomnaya Oil platform, Pechora Sea. Picture: Gazprom
The campaigners, including Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo, used three inflatable speedboats from their Arctic Sunrise ship and scaled the platform with mooring lines.
'We're here peacefully and we will continue to draw the attention of Russian people and people around the world to what's happening there,' Naidoo told The Associated Press by telephone from the platform. 'It's bad for Russia, it's bad for the planet.'
Prirazlomnaya is owned and operated by a Gazprom subsidiary, which is developing Arctic oil interests. It is preparing to drill its first well.
Naidoo was quoted saying their welcome was not as hostile as might have been expected.
Greenpeace activists before and at the start of their protest. Pictures: Greenpeace
The platform's employees 'have been very friendly, engaging in conversations with us, asking where we come from, and offering us soup', he said.
Later reports said water cannon was used against the six Greenpeace activists on the Gazprom rig. 'Showers of ice water' were jetted at the half dozen protesters, the organisation confirmed.
Two helicopters landed on Prirazlomnaya during the action, confirmed Itar-Tass, suggesting a move was underway to detain the activisits.
'The activists say they hold the ground but they are wet and cold,' said Greenpeace.
The platform is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest major port, Murmansk.
Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund recently joined forces to warn that a spill could cause massive pollution in the Arctic.
The Gazprom statement claimed Greenpeace 'violated the 500 metre navigation safety zone of the Prirazlomnaya sea platform and 'hung' off it, using mountain-climbing equipment'.
Greenpeace insisted their presence on the rig is preventing normal work under safety rules.
The activists, from Canada, Finland, Germany and the United States, are supplied to withstand a 10-day-long siege, claimed Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia.
The attacks are part of Greenpeace's global campaign against drilling in the Arctic, he told the Russian media.
'We want the mindless politicised race for the last droplets of oil to stop.'
Naidoo travelled to Moscow earlier this month, but failed to secure meetings with governmental officials. He said at the time that the watchdog was planning to focus more on grassroots activism and reserved the right to carry out acts of peaceful civil disobedience.
'The only way to prevent a catastrophic oil spill from happening in this unique environment is to permanently ban all drilling now,' he said yesterday.
The group could be prosecuted under the same 'hooliganism' law that has landed three members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot in jail, admits Greenpeace.
Gazprom says drilling in the Arctic is completely safe.
With as few as 70 left in the wild, evidence of poachers targeting species is likely to be a concern.
Conservationists and experts due to meet over what to do with animal listed as most endangered big cat in the world.