On Wednesday Russian authorities charged five Greenpeace activists with piracy, after they seized the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship in north-west Russia, and detained all on board. 25 others face similar charges.
The activists were protesting against Russian oil giant Gazprom's plans for energy expansion, and specifically against drilling in the Arctic. If found guilty in Russian courts, the activists face up to 15 years in prison.
The executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, tweeted that the decision by Russian authorities to charge the activists was "the most serious threat to Greenpeace's peaceful environmental activism" since the sinking of the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship in 1985.
The arrests come one month after the the Russian Coast Guard detained all members of Greenpeace onboard the Arctic Sunrise who were protesting against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, an operation of Gazprom. They were protesting against the environmental threats caused by the company's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic.
Although a spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, Vladimir I. Markin, said, "All those who carried out the attack on the platform will face criminal charges, regardless of their nationality," Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly stated that the protesters are not pirates.