The following is an update on the consular assistance being extended to the Australian member of the crew of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, Colin Russell, who was detained in Russia on 19 September.
Russian authorities advised that the vessel was seized because it violated Russian laws and administrative code related to its Exclusive Economic Zone. Several of the Greenpeace activists had earlier boarded the Prirazlomnaya Oil platform in protest at Russian oil drilling in the Arctic Circle. Mr Russell is one of 30 crew members on the vessel. Others include an Australia-UK dual national and a permanent resident who is a UK citizen – both of whom are being assisted by UK consular officials.
A Canadian consular officer met with Mr Russell on board the vessel soon after it arrived in Murmansk on 24 September and confirmed that he was safe and in good health.
Mr Russell and other crew members were questioned and detained soon afterwards and subsequently charged with piracy, which is a serious offence in Russia and subject to a mandatory 10-15 year prison term. On 26 September, Mr Russell received a two-month detention period while the investigation continues, i.e. until 24 November 2013.
Consular officers from the Australian Embassy in Moscow have been in Murmansk since 26 September in which time they have:
- met with the Leningradsky Court in Murmansk and the investigating authorities to seek information regarding Mr Russell's current detention location, his welfare and procedures for consular access to the detention centre;
- confirmed that Mr Russell has legal representation (provided by Greenpeace) and met with his lawyer who has confirmed that Mr Russell has lodged an appeal against his detention;
- after securing formal approval from the local Russian authorities for consular access to Mr Russell, met Mr Russell on 30 September to check his welfare and convey messages from his family;
- met with Greenpeace officers. 'Care packs' have been provided to Mr Russell containing various toiletry items, and food and clothing items;
- met with prison authorities to establish Mr Russell's prison account so that he is able to purchase additional items from the prison store, and to seek information on visits; and
- consulted with other countries' consular officials in Murmansk whose nationals are involved, including from United States, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, Denmark, Poland, Brazil and France.
The Department expects Mr Russell to be afforded due legal process throughout the investigation and any subsequent legal proceedings and the Australian Embassy in Moscow is liaising with other foreign missions to ensure coordinated messaging to Russian authorities as regards the conduct of the case.
A senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is travelling to Russia this week and will register Australia's interest in this case, underscoring our consular responsibility for Mr Russell.
The Department is maintaining regular contact with Mr Russell's family in Australia to ensure they are kept informed of developments.