The head of Greenpeace has issued an extraordinary plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin to sit down and talk about the plight of 30 activists charged with piracy over an Arctic drilling protest.
The offer, made in an open letter to Putin delivered to the Russian embassy in the Dutch capital of The Hague on Wednesday, came a day after Russia refused bail for three of the detainees, with Greenpeace already vowing to call for bail for the remaining 27.
Naidoo’s letter cited a comment made by Putin at a recent Arctic forum in the Russian city of Salekhard where the president allegedly said: “It would have been much better if representatives of this organisation [Greenpeace] were present in this room and would express their opinion on the issues we are discussing, expressed their complaints or demands, rendered their concerns, nobody would ignore that.”
I’ll give Naidoo some credit here: he’s quickly figured out where the power lies in Russia, and it’s not with the courts. But I’ll make two further points, neither of which reflect too well on Greenpeace.
Firstly, they are playing straight into Putin’s hands by playing a role in a pantomime which he has directed on countless occasions previously. An injustice is done somewhere in Russia, everyone is appalled, appeals are made to Putin, who then steps in and graciously pardons the victim – who has meanwhile seen enough to convince him not to repeat the error. The end result is that Putin cops a nice PR coup as the voice of reason, and receives the gratitude of those who a few weeks before saw him as part of the problem.
Secondly, don’t Greenpeace normally promote the rule of law as interpreted through the courts and the judiciary over the arbitrary intervention on the part of a supreme ruler? What effect do their current attempts to free their own people have on the overall human rights situation within Russia? One would hope that they’ve at least thought about this.