I’m a bit late to this, having been preoccupied with other things, but the Greenpeace activists being held in Russia were freed between Christmas and New Year.
This went down roughly as I’d expected – some rough treatment dealt out by the authorities followed by intervention from Putin resulting in their release – but not completely. I expected the charges to be processed further and with more publicity before Putin’s intervention, and that Putin – and the Russian government – would have made more of it, particularly their own benevolence. But coming as it did as part of a general amnesty that involved people of far greater importance (and served jail time) than a bunch of foreign middle-class do-gooders, the release of the Arctic 30, as they are known in the media, was somewhat overshadowed.
I would dearly like to know what was said to them, and to the Greenpeace leadership, before their release. Maybe a word of warning? Or maybe nothing at all? Whatever was said, the activists themselves are talking tough about how they would do it all again, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating: let’s see how many of them actually do so. The fact that one protestor complained his vegetatian dietary requirements were not catered for in a Russian prison suggests they might not be too keen on a return, regardless of what they’re saying now.
I caught an interview with one of the Australian protestors on the news down here, and he was very evasive when he was asked if he’d go back for another go. Obviously he needs to toe the managerial line by acting tough, but probably knows deep down that they may have had a lucky escape. He also seemed clueless, stating the protest was because “we have an oil company drilling in the arctic with the full support of a government.” Firstly, the expectation that a government should oppose a company going about its lawful business on its territory was not justified, and the interviewer didn’t bother pressing the point. Secondly, surely this twit has realised by now that Gazprom is a state-owned company and for their not to have governmental support would be somewhat unusual.
I doubt Greenpeace will attempt the same stunt again, assuming they get their ship back (the Russians still have it), and assuming it’s not been meddled with when they do. If they do stage a repeat, I am sure the team will consist of a fresh bunch of naive idealists who have been kept well away from those who went through the mill the first time. I am pretty certain that, despite their tough-talking now, none of the original lot will be back for more. They will have seen enough to know how unpredictable the Russians can be, and how impotent their protests back home were in the face of the charges. I think the protests will continue with increasing frequency and volume, but they’ll not take place on Russian territory.