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9 Oct, 2013 12:30

Suspected drugs aboard Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship - Russian investigators

Suspected drugs aboard Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship - Russian investigators

Narcotic substances, presumed to be poppy straw and morphine, have been confiscated from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee declared Wednesday.

"The detectives and criminal experts jointly with specialists in concrete spheres are examining the documents, objects and equipment, which were confiscated during the search on board the ship Arctic Sunrise. They have already found that some part of confiscated equipment is of dual purpose and could have been used not only in ecological purposes," the Investigative Committee said. This will undergo specific legal expertise, which the detectives plan to conduct soon.

The Investigative Committee’s spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said in a statement published on its website that “narcotic substances (probably poppy straw and morphine) were confiscated during the search on the ship.”

“The origin of these substances and their purpose are being investigated as well," the statement said.  

Given this “new evidence,” the charges already brought against the 30 Greenpeace activists could be “modified,” the Investigation Committee said.

Russian investigators will also charge some of the Arctic Sunrise crewmembers with further serious crimes, as they are suspected of ramming border guards’ boats, endangering the guards’ lives and health, the Investigative Committee’s statement said.

We assume the Russian claims of drugs found on ship refer to the medical supplies we are obliged to carry under maritime law.

— Arctic Sunrise (@gp_sunrise) October 9, 2013

Poppy straw, the husk left after the opium is extracted from the pods, is a raw material that can be used for illegally producing heroin or morphine.  

Recognized as a narcotic substance, the possession, sale, purchase or use of poppy straw without a license or authorization is against Russian law.

Greenpeace has called Russia’s claims that illegal drugs were found on board the ship “a fabrication, pure and simple.”

“Before leaving Norway for the Russian Arctic, the ship was searched with a sniffer dog by the Norwegian authorities, as is standard. The laws in Norway are amongst the strictest in the world, and nothing was found because nothing illegal was on the ship,” Greenpeace said in a statement posted on its website.

Greenpeace International responds to the Russian Investigative Committee's latest allegations http://t.co/6CjVm9rOv6 via @Greenpeace

— Greenpeace PressDesk (@greenpeacepress) October 9, 2013

Greenpeace said that “certain medical supplies” are kept on board all of its ships, in accordance with maritime law, and “only the captain and the doctor have access to [them].”

All 30 of the participants in the Greenpeace protest, from 18 different countries, are being held in pre-trial detention and last week were charged with piracy following their protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform earlier this month. According to Russian law, the charge of piracy carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

On Oct. 4, the Netherlands filed a lawsuit against Russia in an international maritime court in a bid to win the release of the Dutch-registered Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise and its 30 crewmembers.  

In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized Dutch authorities for not intervening in the situation earlier, as “over the last year and a half the Russian side made repeated attempts” to draw the attention of the Dutch government to “the vessel’s illegal activities.”

The executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, has appealed to President Vladimir Putin, requesting “an urgent meeting.”

“I would of course be willing to meet you anywhere in the world, in a place of your choosing, but I ask that if possible our meeting is held at your earliest convenience in Russia,”
Naidoo wrote in an open letter to Putin.

Naidoo offered himself “as a guarantor for the good conduct of the Greenpeace activists, were they to be released on bail,” saying he is willing to move his life “to Russia for the duration of this affair.”

The Greenpeace activists’ detention in Russia has sparked a massive reaction among the group’s supporters and human rights organizations. Greenpeace called a worldwide day of solidarity Saturday, with protests in 170 locations across 45 countries.

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood takes part in a protest against the detainment of Greenpeace activists by Russia outside the Russian embassy in central London on October 5, 2013.(AFP Photo / Carl Court)

Greenpeace supporters protest with placards reading "free our activists" against the detainment of Greenpeace activists by Russia at the Heroes square of Budapest on October 5, 2013.(AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)

British musicians Damon Albarn (L) and Paul Simonon (R) along with British actor Jude Law (2-R) take part in a protest against the detainment of Greenpeace activists by Russia outside the Russian embassy in central London on October 5, 2013. (AFP Photo / Carl Court)