(Will Rose / Associated Press / August 24, 2013) Also By Sergei L. Loiko September 20, 2013, 9:48 a.m. MOSCOW Russian commandos armed with assault rifles and handguns seized a Greenpeace ship and detained 30 activists who were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, Greenpeace and Russian officials said Friday. Activists aboard the the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker ship told Greenpeace officials that about 15 troops rappelled down ropes from a combat helicopter in a surprise raid Thursday night in international waters, said Maria Favorskaya, a spokeswoman for the environmental group. At gunpoint, they rounded up all the people on board and also broke the door of the radio room, where some activists tried to barricade themselves in, Favorskaya said. A statement published on the Russian Federal Security Service website said the Greenpeace ship was maneuvering around the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, in the Russian economic zone in the Barents Sea, and ignored signals and warning fire from a coast guard ship. The troops that boarded the ship shortly before 6.30 p.m. Thursday did not fire weapons and no one was injured during the operation, the statement said. After the captain refused to sign the inventory [of equipment on the ship] prepared by border inspectors, a decision was taken to tow the boat to the Russian port of Murmansk for further action, the statement said. Favorskaya said the activists planned to hang a banner on the platform belonging to Gazprom Neft Shelf, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom. But she said Russian coast guard detained two activists Wednesday as they tried to climb up the side of the platform and seized the ship the following evening. Although the episode happened in the exclusive economic zone of Russia, these are not Russian waters, and Russian border troops had no right to get on board a foreign ship, let alone threaten the crew with arms and arrest them, Favorskaya said. Our activists were peacefully protesting against drilling for oil in the Arctic and thus endangering and polluting the region, and the armed attack against them and the illegal arrest of the boat and the crew is a totally outrageous thing. Those taken into custody are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand the Ukraine and United States, the group said.
want a resolution this week that provides enforcement to the terms of the Geneva accord between the U.S. and Russia. Efforts to agree on a resolution have encountered headwinds from Russia, Assads strongest ally, which opposes any measure with a threat of force. The Security Council is set to negotiate a resolution this week, as world leaders travel to New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Sept. 20 it had received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons program. The Sept. 14 U.S.-Russian agreement, which averted an American military strike on Assads government, called for an itemization of Syria s poison gas stocks by yesterday. Initial Disclosure Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Sept. 20 that it was a positive step for Syria to submit the list within the period outlined in the agreement, which calls for the Arab country to turn over its chemical weapons to international control for eventual destruction. There needs to be consequences for noncompliance, Rhodes told reporters on a conference call. We would want to see the strongest enforcement possible. The executive council of the chemical weapons organization in The Hague, which would oversee Syrias disarmament, said Sept. 20 it postponed a meeting on Syria and is aiming for a new date in the middle of this week. Russia has had close ties with Syria since Assads father, Hafez al-Assad, took power in a coup in 1970. Russia has been a major arms provider to the regime and maintains its only military base outside the former Soviet Union at Syrias Mediterranean port of Tartus. Our American partners are trying to blackmail us, Lavrov said.