The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise entered the Northern Sea Route (NSR) off Russia’s coastline to protest against Arctic oil drilling, in defiance of Russian authorities who this week refused the ship permission to enter the area.
Activists aboard the Greenpeace ship plan to engage in a peaceful protest against oil exploration adjacent to the Russian Arctic National Park, where Russian oil major Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are preparing to drill - in violation of Russia’s own environmental laws.
"We refuse to let illegal attempts by the Russian government to stop us from exposing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic. The Russian Arctic National Park is a special place full of rare and threatened Arctic wildlife, and faces an infinitely greater threat from reckless oil companies than a fully equipped Greenpeace icebreaker," says Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
"If Rosneft and ExxonMobil bring in offshore drilling platforms they will risk catastrophic blowouts and spills that could devastate the region. They rely on secrecy and evasion, but we’re here with over 3.5 million people who have their eyes on the Arctic."
Greenpeace International revealed on Wednesday that the Russian government had denied permission for the Arctic Sunrise to enter the Northern Sea Route, despite the ship having met in full the requirements for such an entry. Greenpeace International said the refusal of entry was a clear attempt by the Russian government to stifle criticism of the oil industry.
The Arctic Sunrise continued towards the border of the Northern Sea Route as Greenpeace International called on the Northern Sea Route Administration to reassess the unjustified refusal of entry. That decision has not yet been reversed and the Arctic Sunrise entered the NSR on Saturday morning 0730 Moscow time.
Rosneft’s drilling concession Vostochno-Prinovozemelsky-2, explored in joint operation with ExxonMobil, includes 4,500 hectares with the Russian Arctic National Park in direct contradiction of Russian environmental law. The National Park, triumphantly established by Vladimir Putin’s decree in 2009 to develop tourism in the north, is referred to as the Pearl of the Arctic. It’s an important area for polar bears to give birth to their cubs, is famous for walrus rookeries and is home to narwhals and the bowhead whale.
The Russian Arctic National Park is not the only protected area being invaded by Rosneft. The company has managed to acquire a total of 1.2 million hectares of land and sea inside Arctic protected areas. Among them are the Bolshoi Arctichesky Nature Reserve, Franz-Josef Land Nature Reserve and the Wrangel Island Reserve, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site also known as a ‘maternity ward’ for polar bears. Most of these concessions owned by Rosneft will be jointly explored with ExxonMobil.
“If an accident happens here it will cause irreparable harm to the entire region. There is no proven method for dealing with an oil spill in icy conditions, and cold water stops the oil breaking down for many years. Polar bears, walruses and rare creatures like the narwhal will lose their habitat and this place would be devastated.” Ferguson said.