Kumi Naidoo, the South African director of Greenpeace International, was one of 15 activists who chained their boats to a passenger ship that transports workers to a Russian oil rig in the Arctic yesterday.
Speaking from the Arctic, Naidoo described the standoff as the environmental organisation attempted to stop Gazprom from drilling for oil in the Arctic's Pechora Sea, off the coast of northwest Russia, saying industrialisation of the region would cause "catastrophic climate change".
Naidoo said the activists prevented a ship ferrying workers to the rig from leaving its dock.
Along with 14 of his colleagues, Naidoo spent about three hours on a high-speed boat facing off Gazprom workers before heading back to the Greenpeace ship - where 15 other activists work in support of their crew - to warm up and prevent the onset of hypothermia.
"The workers have been giving us peace signs," he said. But he claimed that they were forced by their bosses to spray the activists with icy sea water to try and move them out of the way.
The protest is part of the environmental group's campaign to ask the UN to declare the upper Arctic a global sanctuary.
Naidoo said: "This may sound far-fetched but the Antarctic is a special zone because of our action years ago." He said ice in the Arctic was melting at a "rapid rate."
"Oil companies should see the melting as a warning we need to protect the area, not begin exploring for oil. "By Gazprom's own admission, drilling for oil in the Arctic is more complicated than space exploration," he said.
He said if an oil spill occurred Gazprom did not have the ability to clean it up.
And it had not submitted a plan to the Russian government to detail how they would cope with an oil spill in the Arctic and was therefore operating illegally, said Naidoo.
Source: The Times
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