Stars in global vigil over activists held in Russia
MOSCOW, Russia - Rock stars and celebrities joined a worldwide vigil Saturday, October 5, in support of 30 Greenpeace activists whose detention in Russia after a protest against Arctic oil drilling sparked a new row between Moscow and the West.
British actor Jude Law joined hundreds of people gathered in London, Saturday, as part of the worldwide protests.
Besides the "Sherlock Holmes" star, frontman Damon Albarn of the British band Blur, bassist Paul Simonon, formerly of The Clash, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also took part in the rally.
Police said about 800 people had gathered for the protest that lasted about two hours. Organizers put the number at 1,000.
Pressure has been mounting on Russia from both activists and governments shocked by Moscow's decision to level full-blown piracy charges against Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise crew.
But Moscow displayed few signs of leniency on Saturday as it hit out at both Greenpeace and the Dutch government under whose flag the environmental lobby group's ship sailed.
"Everything that happened with the Arctic Sunrise is a pure provocation," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov fumed.
Russian authorities impounded the 950-ton icebreaker last month after it approached the world's first oil rig in the pristine Barents Sea - the focus of energy companies from around the world.
A court in Russia's northwestern region of Murmansk has since charged all crew members - who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States - with charges that carry jail terms of up to 15 years.
The incident has set off a burgeoning diplomatic effort to secure the activists' release despite Russia's tough stance.
The Netherlands broke more than two weeks of silence about the case on Friday by starting legal action under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea aimed at quickly freeing the crew.
Several governments now appear ready to add the Greenpeace detentions to their growing log of complaints about Russia's treatment of human-rights issues under President Vladimir Putin.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she expressed concern about her country's crew member during talks with another Russian deputy foreign minister on the sidelines of a regional forum in Bali.
The US State Department also said it was "monitoring the case very closely."
'Free the Arctic 30'
The global day of solidarity kicked off on the sandy beaches of Australia and stretched across swathes of Africa and Europe before its expected conclusion outside Moscow's science and culture center in Washington.
Greenpeace said hundreds gathered at Hong Kong's main harbor to form a human banner reading "Free the Arctic 30."
Russian activists dressed in bright-yellow sailing jackets held a small vigil near Moscow's iconic Gorky Park during which they held up posters with photographs of the detainees.
In London, Law voiced support for his friend Frank Hewetson, one of the Greenpeace activists detained in Russia.
"Of course, I am worried about Frank, because I care about his family and I care about him, but I know that he is incredibly durable," Law told reporters as he took part in the demonstration.
"I think that it is very interesting that the people over there [Greenpeace activists] probably knew there would be an arrest involved and the threat of a conviction is probably part and parcel of the act of drawing attention to the drilling in the Arctic, which we all know is an international problem which needs confronting.
"What is ludicrous is that they have been charged with piracy which has a threat of 15 years in prison."
About 300 activists in Paris witnessed a large yellow banner proclaiming "Free the Climate Advocates" being lowered from a crane over the Place de la Republique and attached to the arm of a giant statue at the center of the square.
Another 1,000 Greenpeace sympathizers - some of them dressed in pirate costumes - gathered outside the Russian embassy in The Hague for a noisy demonstration featuring whistles and drums.
In Stockholm, about 500 Greenpeace supporters also came out for a two-hour rally that included politicians from both Sweden's governing coalition and the opposition.
Dozens of people also came out on the public squares of Warsaw and Rome as well as Vienna and other European cities and capitals.
Greenpeace tweeted photographs of small vigils held in the South African cities of Durban and Cape Town. - Rappler.com