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As the stalemate between Russia and Greenpeace continues over the fate of 30 activists detained after a protest last month aimed at stopping Russian Arctic ocean oil drilling, both sides are using the on-going Arctic Circle forum in Reykjavik, Iceland, as a way to gain sympathy for their positions.
The two sides crossed paths today as Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace international, held an impromptu, face-to-face discussion with Anton Chilingarov, a polar explorer who is here as the official representative of the Russian government.
The two exchanged viewpoints over the activists, as well as the broader topic of Arctic oil exploration.
Protest against the drilling, not the drillers Naidoo had earlier today stated that the protest was targeted “not against a country, but at the destruction of a critical ecological resource”. He also said he had been informed by oil industry technicians that “even in best case scenario it would be impossible to contain Arctic oil spill”.
But while the said the two came to no conclusion about how to end the impasse, they felt they had created an "atmosphere of optimism" and exchanged contact details in the hopes they could speak furhter.
Priort to meeting with Naidoo, Chilingarov told an audience that he felt the emergence of a non-governmental forum such as the Arctic Circle, meant “there was no need for Greenpeace ‘piracy’.”
The Greenpeace activists being held in Russia were initially detained on charges of piracy, although Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, later said it was obvious they had not engaged in such actions.
More protests to come Naidoo, who also spoke with other Russian officials today, told journalists that even with the arrests last month Greenpeace would continue its protests as one of a number of tools it was using to pressure oil companies to stop Arctic exploration.
“Greenpeace is not in position to not engage in another protest. Rather, they are more likely to intensify,” he said. “The challenge of catastrophic climate change is bigger than all previous [rights] struggles.”
Addressing Russian charges that illegal drugs were found aboard the Arctic Sunrise, the Greenpeace vessel impounded after the incident, Naidoo said the ship had been swept by Norwegian authorities before sailing for Russia, and found to be drug free.
He stopped short of saying that Russian authorities were seeking to frame the activists. According to Naidoo, medical morphine and a type of Argentinean tea were found in the Russian sweep.