Consular: Detention of Greenpeace activist in Russia – update

Media release

30 September 2013

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:

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.