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Paul McCartney urges Putin to free Greenpeace activists ‘in time for Christmas’

Paul McCartney urges Putin to free Greenpeace activists ‘in time for Christmas’
Former Beatle, Paul McCartney, has called on Vladimir Putin to release 30 Greenpeace activists arrested for protesting Arctic oil drilling. The protesters are currently being held on charges of hooliganism, which carries a potential sentence of 7 years.

McCartney posted an open letter to the Russian President on his website, expressing his wish that this “misunderstanding” be resolved “in time for Christmas.”

“Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair,” wrote McCartney, stressing that Greenpeace was not an “anti-Russian” organization.

The crew of the Arctic Sunrise was transferred to St Petersburg to pre-trial detention facilities at the beginning of the week. Prior to this they had been in custody in the northern Russian city of Murmansk up until September 18. 

The 28 activists and two journalists were initially charged with piracy which carries a possible jail sentence of 15 years. However, Russia’s Investigative Committee scaled down the charges to hooliganism, punishable with a maximum of 7 years in jail.

Greenpeace alleges that the activists are innocent of the charges of both piracy and hooliganism, while prosecutors say they “posed a real threat” to employees when they attempted to scale Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

McCartney wrote that his “Russian friends” had told him the “protesters are being portrayed in some quarters as being anti-Russian” and had been working at the behest of western governments. The former Beatle claimed this was not true and “non-violence is an essential part of who they are.” 

“I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate,” said McCartney, appealing to Putin to “use his influence.”

A handout photo provided by Greenpeace International shows the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, being towed on September 24, 2013 into the Russian port of Murmansk by a Russian Coast Guard vessel. (AFP/Greenpeace International)

The world famous singer noted on his Twitter after he had sent the letter that he had received a reply from the Russian Ambassador, saying that the Greenpeace case was being misrepresented by world media.

Spokesman for President Putin, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian television channel, Life News, that the government had not yet received anything, but had heard about the letter in the press.  Peskov said that a decision would be made once they had seen the open letter from McCartney. 

The detention of the activists has triggered outrage amongst rights groups and supporters of Greenpeace. In response to the imminent trial, Greenpeace has started the so-called “Free the Arctic 30” campaign in which over 1.5 million people across the globe sent letters to Russian embassies demanding their release.

Furthermore, the Dutch government has taken legal measures to get the activists released – two of whom are Dutch. 

Officials from the Netherlands appealed to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in a hearing last week where they alleged that the Russian coast guards’ boarding of the Arctic Sunrise was “internationally wrongful,” breaching the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and customary international law.