Mum of Exeter Greenpeace engineer appeals for support over his safe release from Russian authorities
The mother of an Exeter maritime engineer aboard a Greenpeace boat that has been taken over by Russian authorities is urging people to help lobby for their safe release.
Former Countess Wear Primary School and St Peter’s School pupil Iain Rogers, 37, is employed as an engineer on the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise which was intercepted in international waters yesterday.
It is now over 12 hours since Greenpeace International has had any contact with the ship, which appears to be heading west towards Russian territorial waters.
Activists from the environmental charity were peacefully protesting against one of Russia’s largest oil companies, Gazprom. Activists are opposed to what they claim are “dangerous” Arctic oil drilling practices.
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The charity has issued a statement confirming that the crew are currently being held by armed Russian Coast Guards who “illegally boarded the ship in international waters”.
Greenpeace officials say they have not received any formal confirmation of possible charges and the activists have been denied access to legal or consular assistance.
Over 20 Greenpeace offices are now organising protests at Russian embassies around the world today.
Iain’s mum, Sue Turner said she last heard from her son on the weekend ahead of the protest.
She said her understanding is that the boat is being escorted to the Russian port of Murmansk. She said the charity is “confident” the crew is safe but the Russians are not allowing the crew to have any contact with the outside world.
“I’m very worried,” she said. “But Greenpeace has assured me that they don’t think they will come to any harm.”
She described her son, who trained as a marine engineer in South Shield, as having a “great sense of humour” and suspected that he would be trying to keep the others in high-sprits.
She said Iain has been working for Greenpeace for several years.
“Iain’s been aboard the boat since August, they were in international waters and had just started a protest against drilling,” she continued.
“He is employed as an engineer, so although he doesn’t call himself and activist he supports what the charity is trying to achieve. He enjoys working with an international group of people all passionate about what they’re doing.
“He is people minded as well as environmentally,” she said. “He is worried about what we are doing to our world and how it’s going to impact on us.”
She added: “Greenpeace has been extremely supportive, keeping in touch with myself and my daughter.”
Mrs Turner said she didn’t expect to hear anything from her son until at least Sunday.
“I would urge people to contact their MP and the Russian Embassy to help ensure their safe treatment.”
A statement of the Greenpeace website states: “Using a helicopter and ropes, armed Coast Guard officials boarded the ship and started rounding up the activists, assembling them on the helideck.
“They subsequently arrested 25 protesters. The Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform inside international waters and outside the jurisdiction of Russian authorities, making the boarding of the ship unlawful.”
The head of Greenpeace International’s Arctic oil campaign, Ben Ayliffe, added: “The safety of our activists remains our top priority and we are working hard to establish what is facing them.
“They have done nothing to warrant this level of aggression and have been entirely peaceful throughout.
“In our last phone call with the ship, the crew said that their spirit remains high and they have been boosted by messages of support from thousands of people who stand with them to oppose dangerous Arctic oil drilling.
“The real threat to the Russian Arctic comes not from the crew of the Arctic Sunrise but from Gazprom, one of the most reckless oil companies in the world today.”
People are urged to send an urgent email to the Russian Ambassador in London and demand the Russian Coast Guard release the peaceful protesters immediately.