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Even though an amnesty has now been declared by the DUMA, it is widely considered that Russia reacted very harshly to the 30 Greenpeace protestors that were arrested in the Arctic, and President Vladimir Putin has stated that it was meant as a lesson that Moscow will take tough steps to protect its interests in the region. Greenpeace doesn’t appear to be phased however and has actually announced that it plans to step-up its campaign against oil exploration in the Arctic.
John Sauven, the UK Director for Greenpeace, has stated that the way in which Russia dealt with the protest has created far more awareness around the world than they could ever have hoped for.
Related article: How Effective are Anti-Oil Protests?
“The Russians have shot themselves in the foot by massively raising the profile of the campaign. There is huge new awareness of what is happening. Millions more people now know. The political leaders from 18 countries [which had Arctic 30 campaigners] had to engage with Russia over it. The idea that these oil companies will go up to the Arctic now in secret is no longer the case.”
The Guardian reports that there have now been 860 protests against Arctic oil exploration, with more than 2.6 million people writing to embassies to complain, including celebrities such as; Paul McCartney, Madonna, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, and Nobel prize winners Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi. Greenpeace even received political support from Angela Merkel, David Cameron, François Hollande, Ban Ki-moon, and Hillary Clinton.
Sauven explained that Russia had failed to deter Greenpeace from pursuing further campaigns. “Going to the Arctic is not going to change. That's certain. But we haven't thought 'what next'.
Russia has not been favourable to Greenpeace in the past. But we have had a lot of airtime in the last few months. The Russian public is much more aware. We have got to find ways to develop this and connect with the Russian public.
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Half the oil spills in the world happen in Russia. But if you look at the opinion polls, people there want to protect the Arctic. People understand the history of the Soviet Union is one of environmental destruction.”
Commenting on the amnesty offered by the Russian government Sauven remarked that “there is a sense of fantastic relief at the Russian parliamentary amnesty. [But] we know we have not won. We haven't stopped oil companies industrialising the Arctic. We need to go back there. We have to bear witness and show the risks [to the environment].
We have to end the age of oil, step up the campaign on the alternatives. Ultimately we need to remove the market for oil and end the age of oil.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com