The Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise sailed back into Dutch territorial waters on August 9 after over 300 days in Russian custody. The ship had been held illegally since taking part in a peaceful direct action against state owned oil company Gazprom, as it tried to drill the world’s first oil well in icy Arctic waters.
Several members of the so called ‘Arctic 30’ were there to greet the ship and boarded the vessel in Beverwijk, near Amsterdam.
“This is a joyous day for me, for my friends and for the millions of people around the world who campaigned for the release of the Arctic 30 and the Arctic Sunrise”, says Dutch climate and energy campaigner Faiza Oulahsen, who spent two months in Russian prison last year on piracy and then hooliganism charges following the protest.
“The companies and governments who seek to exploit this vulnerable region for profit have tried to silence the growing call to protect the Arctic for future generations. But they have not succeeded. And they will not. The Arctic Sunrise will sail again. By now more than 5 million people worldwide have spoken out for Arctic protection.”
Oulahsen went on to thank the broad sweep of civil society organizations and individuals who spoke out on behalf of the activists including 11 Nobel peace prize winners, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a host of senior political figures from across the world.
“We are both incredibly grateful for the huge level of support we received, and conscious that many others have not been so lucky. I would like to use this opportunity to support the many other peaceful environmental activists who remain oppressed or imprisoned for their beliefs, both in Russia and around the world.”
The activists saw the ship for the first time since it was seized by Russian security agents on September 19th 2013. The ship will now sail to the harbour of Amsterdam, accompanied by a fleet of Greenpeace supporters in small vessels.
In Amsterdam the Arctic Sunrise will host a humble, but festive homecoming ceremony. On board the ship is a samovar, a traditional Russian tea-pot. The tea-pot, engraved with the words ‘MY Arctic Sunrise – From Russia with love’, will stay on board, as an ongoing symbol of support and care from the Russian Arctic defenders. Once the Arctic Sunrise arrives in Amsterdam, members of the Arctic 30 will drink the ceremonial first cups of tea from the samovar.
In a few days the ship will be moved to a shipyard in Amsterdam for much needed repairs. Even though captain Daniel Rizzotti and his crew have worked hard for several weeks in Murmansk to make the Arctic Sunrise seaworthy again, much acwork still needs to be done. Within two weeks Greenpeace expects to have a thorough idea of the extent of the damages.