20 Sep 2013

NZ activists arrested at gunpoint

1:18 pm on 20 September 2013

Two New Zealand men are being held after being arrested by the Russian coastguard while protesting on board a Greenpeace ship in the Pechora Sea north of Russia.

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise had been circling an oil platform inside international waters protesting against oil company Gazprom's arctic oil drilling operations.

The BBC reports that the confrontation began when Greenpeace members tried to board an Arctic drilling platform owned by Russian company Gazprom.

The Russian coastguard immediately detained two activists who managed to get onto the side of the platform.

All the other activists returned to their ship. A helicopter flew to the Arctic Sunrise and about 15 armed men in balaclavas abseiled onto the deck, arresting the activists at gunpoint.

Greenpeace says a total of 25 activists on board have been arrested, including two New Zealanders.

Spokesperson Simon Boxer says the latest reports were that all those on the ship were being held at gunpoint in the mess area and some reports say they were on their knees.

Mr Boxer says Greenpeace cannot release the names of the two New Zealanders involved, but their families have been advised of the situation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is in contact with Greenpeace New Zealand and Russian authorities to try to confirm the two are New Zealanders.

It says it will offer consular assistance if it is needed.