UPDATE 2-Putin says Greenpeace activists not pirates, but did break law

Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:18am EDT
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* Environmental activists tried to scale offshore oil rig

* Activists to be questioned as suspects, piracy case opened

* Greenpeace says it is Russia that is breaking law

By Alexei Anishchuk

SALEKHARD, Russia, Sept 25 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Greenpeace activists arrested for staging a protest at Russia's first Arctic offshore oil platform had violated international law but signalled they should not face charges of piracy.

Russian authorities seized the activists' ship and towed it to shore after two tried to scale the rig to protest against Russian plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, which they say poses a threat to the fragile eco-system.

The 30 activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise were due to be questioned on Wednesday, Greenpeace said, a day after Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal case on suspicion of piracy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

"It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates," said Putin, but said the activists had broken international law when they tried to climb the oil platform.

Russia is concerned protests like the one at the Prirazlomnaya platform, owned by state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, could undermine efforts to draw foreign investment and tap rich Arctic resources.   Continued...