October 5, 2013 by AK
Back to the 30 Greenpeace activists who have been or are going to be charged with piracy in Murmansk. Once again, the reasons why the charge is absurd under international law have been laid out by prof. Kontorovich (scroll down the archive page) and I have tried to explain why it goes against the Russian criminal code.
I’ve searched YouTube for videos of the 2013 and 2012 actions – there are a few (2013; 2012) – and was amazed by the sheer contrast between the two or three inflatable dinghies with five or six unarmed activists, some of them women, and the stupendous size of the platform and the number of people on it, including armed guards who probably outnumbered not only the activists on the boats, but all those Greenpeaceniks on board the Arctic Sunrise. I was also outraged by the violent response of the guards who fired real bullets – in addition to using more or less legitimate water pumps – on the obviously unarmed activists.
The Russian prosecutors’ response to the Greenpeace action is as ugly and disproportionate as the border guards’ firing real bullets at the rubber boats (yeah, as if they had imagined for a moment the boats were manned by Islamist crazies – they knew full well they were educated liberal Europeans), and illegal in the literal sense of breaking the law of the land.
There’s no question Russia is out to send a strong message to “them out there:” Don’t mess with our own Arctic. No problem with the message – a liberal democratic government might do the same.
The problem, of course, is the means, and that is Russia’s biggest problem: its autocrats do not hesitate to break the country’s own laws in pursuit of political gain. Plus, in this particular case, the piracy charge is the only justification under international maritime law for seizing the Greenpeace ship. But the net result of all this is the country’s ongoing (self-)destruction as a polity.