Canadians charged with piracy in Russia 0
Two Canadians have been charged with piracy in Russia for their part in a protest on an offshore oil platform in the Arctic.
Paul Ruzycki, 48, of Port Colborne, Ont., who was chief mate of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, was officially charged Thursday along with 29 others, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a release.
Alexandre Paul, 35, of Montreal was charged earlier in the day, also with piracy.
Ruzycki and Paul were on the ship to participate in a protest of Gazprom's oil-drilling operations in the Pechora Sea, about 113 km off the north coast of Russia.
The protesters were arrested Sept. 19, after Russian authorities stormed the ship.
Many of the international crew are also charged with piracy. If found guilty, they could each face up to 15 years in prison.
"My mind is blown, I can't believe this is happening," said Ruzycki's nephew Jesse Reid, who was a member of Greenpeace for eight years.
In 2002, Reid was taken off a Greenpeace ship in South Africa along with 16 others and charged. At the time, he said, no one knew the South African legal system and they didn't know if they'd be thrown in prison.
As with many other such cases — particularly with the world watching — he and the others were let go and kicked out of the country. He was hoping the Russians would do the same with his uncle and the rest of the 30-member crew, which includes a freelance videographer and photographer.
"The way Russia has been acting lately...they are a real wild card and no one knows what they are going to do," Reid said.
One difference between Reid's arrest in South Africa and his uncle's in Russia is the role social media has played.
"Facebook didn't exist...you felt a little more alone and hoped newswires would pick up the story," he said.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said the activists are accused of an imaginary offence.
"There can be no doubt about why the charge of piracy has been brought and the legal hammer wielded. An effort is underway to intimidate us, but our peaceful passionate campaign against Gazprom and all other Arctic drillers will not be silenced," Naidoo said in a release.
Greenpeace lawyers have appealed the court's refusal to set bail for the protesters.
— with files from Dave Johnson