Moscow (AFP) – A Russian court on Monday rejected bail requests from the captain of a Greenpeace ship and a young female Argentinian activist involved in a protest against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic. A court in the northern region of Murmansk where the 30 crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are being held ruled that the ship’s captain Pete Willcox, 60, and Camila Speziale, 21, should not be released. Willcox is one of the most prominent of the activists detained as he is a veteran Greenpeace campaigner who also captained the ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French secret agents in New Zealand in 1985. The Greenpeace crew have been held in Murmansk for almost three weeks after their Dutch-flagged ship was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation in Arctic waters. Two of its activists had climbed on to an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest its drilling in a sensitive Arctic environment which Greenpeace says risks environmental catastrophe. The Russian authorities have now charged all 30 crew with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. The so-called “Arctic 30” have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24. Last week the same court turned down bail requests from two British activists among the Arctic 30. Russian news agencies quoted Willcox as saying during a break in his hearing on Monday that he had many regrets and if he could start again, would have stayed in New York rather than embarking on the Arctic voyage. He also said he was suffering from heart problems. “I’m innocent and I do not understand what I’m accused of,” Greenpeace quoted Speziale as saying in court Monday. “I don’t have anything against your country. Russia and Argentina have good relations. But now I’m arrested for something I haven’t done.
captain, two activists Comments 1 Photojournalists rally in support of their jailed colleague Denis Sinyakov in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, on October 13, 2013. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images) Reuters 12:47 p.m. EDT, October 14, 2013 MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia denied bail on Monday to the American captain of a Greenpeace ship and two other foreign activists who are among 30 environmentalists arrested on charges of piracy over a protest at an Arctic drilling platform. Captain Peter Willcox and activists David John Haussmann, 49, of New Zealand and Camila Speziale, 21, who has Italian and Argentinian citizenship, had appealed against an order that they be held in pre-trial detention until late November. A decision on another Arctic Sunrise crew member, Cristian D’Alessandro of Italy, was put off until Tuesday, when bail hearings for a Briton and a Swiss activist are also planned. A court in the northern port city of Murmansk has already denied bail to two Britons and four Russians held over the September 18 protest in which activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil rig and security forces later boarded the Greenpeace ship. The piracy charges, punishable by up to 15 years’ jail, appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic. Other countries and firms seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources face similar concerns from environmentalists, who fear they will destroy a pristine ecosystem. Willcox, 60, a veteran campaigner who was at the helm of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed and sunk by the French secret service in 1985, denied the charges against him in court. “I have been doing this for 40 years and never faced a charge like this,” the state-run Russian news agency RIA quoted him as saying. “If I could start everything over, I would stay in New York.” Greenpeace says the protest at the rig owned by state-controlled Russian energy company Gazprom was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. “He is a hero not a pirate,” Willcox’s wife, Maggie, said in a statement.
Russia Opens Case Against Uralkali CEO as Condition for Return
11 that Russia must lay criminal charges against the executive before hed be allowed to return home. Uralkali, the worlds biggest producer, roiled the $20 billion potash market at the end of July after withdrawing from a trading venture with its Belarusian partner, accusing it of selling cargoes outside of their marketing agreement. The Russian company said it would increase output, sending shares of fertilizer producers plunging from Toronto to Tel Aviv . All is going as planned: Russia needs to open the case to get the CEO home and release him there after confirming that hes not guilty, Elena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB Capital in Moscow, said by phone. The 41-year-old Baumgertner was arrested in Minsk on Aug. 26, a month after announcing the end of the potash marketing venture. Charges were filed against him as chairman of Belarusian Potash Co., as the trader was known. After spending a month in a KGB prison, he was put under home arrest in a rented Minsk flat. The charge against Baumgertner has been changed, probably to embezzlement, Lukashenko said last week. Fair Judgment Alexei Basistov, Baumgertners lawyer, said he welcomes Russias move to request his clients handover as he expects fair judgment by the Russian court system. The next step in healing the rift between Russia and Belarus may be the sale by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov of his stake, Sakhnova said. We expect Kerimov to sell his stake in Uralkali regardless of the result of the Baumgertner case as Russia and Belarus need to renew their partnership and Lukashenko doesnt want to work with him. Kerimov, who shares 33 percent in Uralkali with two partners, is getting offers to sell the stake.
Clearly in the next few years this is likely. But in the longer run Russia’s own deep problems will preclude it from playing a strong international role. Russia’s $2 trillion economy is barely larger than the Canadian economy. Russia’s economy is less than 3 percent of global GDP and only 14 percent the size of the American economy. Its agricultural sector is backward and its trade, dominated by exports of oil and gas, is the profile for a Third World, not First World, country. The World Bank rates Russia 112th in the world after Egypt and Pakistan in the ease of doing business while the Transparency Index puts Russia at 133rd in the world for corruption, barely eking out Nigeria (139th). The Russian military performance in Chechnya and Georgia was well below the standard of major powers. Despite the second largest array of scientists and engineers in the world, Russia has no Silicon Valley. Demographically, several million well-educated Russians in the last 40 years have emigrated to the United States, Europe and Israel. The birth rate, while increasing, remains low. Average life expectancy of 68.6 years leaves Russia more than ten years behind that of life expectancy in the West. Politically, it is a semi-democracy with extensive corruption and state domination of the political system by the Silovik elite (secret police and military personnel). Internationally, while the United States and the Europeans have numerous foreign allies, the Russians can count on only a few small countries such as Cuba and Syria. Thus, in 2020 or 2030, when China, India and Brazil likely become major powers, the United States rebounds under new leadership and the Middle East hopefully stabilizes, there will be precious little room for Russia to maneuver. Until then, by supporting the status quo, Russia will enjoy a few years until the wheel turns and it once more, as it has does so often in the past, loses much of its power in the world.