Armed Russian security forces are holding 29 Greenpeace activists hostage after they stormed their ship in the Arctic Ocean, according to the environmental campaigners.
The activists said that about 15 men wearing balaclavas seized the crew of the Arctic Sunrise in the Barents Sea as they protested near the site of the Prirazlomnaya drilling rig.
According to Reuters, "'Greenpeace International activists locked inside the radio room said they saw other activists detained on their knees with guns pointed at them,' it said in a statement.
"Russia accused the environmentalist Greenpeace group on Thursday of 'aggressive and provocative' actions in boarding a Russian oil platform in the Arctic, an area ecologists say is imperilled by a rush for its resources.
"Russian coast guards in the Barents Sea fired warning shots on Wednesday and arrested two Greenpeace activists from the Amsterdam-registered 'Arctic Sunrise' ship who scaled the side of the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya platform.
"The protest is against the environmental risks posed by increased energy exploitation in the Arctic, estimated to hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.
"Prirazlomnaya is Russia's first Arctic offshore oil rig and a sensitive project in a country that has made tapping the region's resources a priority to drive its economy. Greenpeace activists had boarded the platform previously in August.
"The Russian Foreign Ministry said the action had threatened the site's security and it had summoned the Dutch ambassador on Wednesday, asking him to ensure it was not repeated.
"'The intruders' actions were of aggressive and provocative character and had the outward signs of extremist activity that can lead to people's death and other grave consequences,' the ministry said in a statement.
"Let's be absolutely clear about this: the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined... to drill in remote, frozen seas," said Ben Ayliffe, the green group's Arctic oil campaign head.
"The Arctic is estimated to hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.
"But environmental campaigners say the rush for the Arctic's natural resources threatens to destroy its fragile ecosystems and says there is insufficient emergency planning in case of an oil spill in its extreme conditions.
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