10 Aug 2014

Impounded Greenpeace boat back home

6:15 pm on 10 August 2014

The Greenpeace vessel impounded in Russia after a protest over oil drilling, has returned to its home port in the Netherlands.

Russian security forces boarded The Arctic Sunrise in September last year.

Russian commandos seized the Dutch-flagged boat in September 2013 and detained 30 Greenpeace activists and journalists, including two New Zealanders, after a protest at an offshore oil rig owned by Russian state oil giant Gazprom.

Russia released the ship in June, but it then took two months to prepare it for the voyage back to The Netherlands, with Greenpeace saying equipment including navigation and communication aids "disappeared or had been severely damaged".

The Arctic Sunrise docked in Murmansk.

The Arctic Sunrise docked in Murmansk. Photo: AFP / GREENPEACE / DMITRI SHAROMOV

AFP reports the activists were arrested after two campaigners attempted to scale the giant Prirazlomnaya offshore platform, which environmentalists warned poses a threat to the pristine Arctic ecology.

Originally facing a charge of piracy, the so-called "Arctic 30", including Australian Colin Russell, Brit Alexandra Harris, who lives in Sydney, and New Zealander Jon Beauchamp, from Adelaide, were later targeted with less severe hooliganism accusations.

They were detained for around two months before being bailed and then benefiting from a Kremlin-backed amnesty.

Greenpeace is suing Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for what it says was the illegal detention of its activists, arguing that it breached their right to freedom of expression.

The Arctic Sunrise meanwhile was towed to the Arctic port of Murmansk in northwestern Russia where it was detained.

The Arctic Sunrise finally left Murmansk just over a week ago after a Greenpeace crew worked around the clock to repair some of the damage.