Twenty-five Greenpeace activists, including two Canadian men, have been arrested by the Russian Coast Guard after a series of protests against commercial oil drilling in the Arctic, the environmentalist group said.
According to Greenpeace, the Russian authorities illegally boarded the Arctic Sunrise and held the crew at gunpoint after coming on board with the help of a helicopter. The communications gear on the ship has been smashed by the Russians, Greenpeace said Thursday.
The storming of the ship took place a day after two activists from the environmental group were arrested as they attempted to board an offshore drilling platform belonging to state natural-gas company Gazprom.
One of the two Canadians detained Thursday was Paul Ruzycki, a resident of Port Colborne, Ont. Greenpeace did not have written permission to release the name of the other Canadian, who is from Montreal.
Greenpeace said the crew members are being detained in the ship's mess area, and that the two people who tried to board the oil platform are now back in detention on the ship.
Greenpeace activist Christy Ferguson, who lives in Toronto, was on the Arctic Sunrise last month when it was first boarded by the Russian Coast Guard.
In an interview, she said that Russian authorities denied requests for a permit to travel in the area without offering any valid reason. She said that the Coast Guard approached the Arctic Sunrise after it followed another ship that was conducting seismic testing, and boarded the ship without any authorization.
"They told us over and over that if we didn't leave, they would fire on our ship," she said, calling last month's events a foreshadowing of Thursday's arrests. "The ship had every right to be there."
Greenpeace called the most recent boarding illegal, saying at the time the Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform at the three nautical mile limit, inside international waters.
The Greenpeace ship is in the Pechora Sea, an arm of the Barents Sea. The Russian Coast Guard, which made the arrests on Wednesday, is part of the Federal Security Service, where a spokesman said he had no information about the claim.
Ms. Ferguson said the Arctic Sunrise flies under a Dutch flag, and the government of that country has called on Russian authorities to explain their actions, to no avail.