Russian investigators have dropped piracy charges against the 30 people detained last month on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, replacing them with a lesser charge of hooliganism, in an apparent concession to international pressure.
The new charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Previously, the group – 28 crew members and activists and two journalists, including six Britons – faced 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment.
The “requalification” of the charges came as a surprise when the Investigative Committee announced it in a statement. Investigators had previously pushed ahead with piracy charges despite international outcry and even a statement by President Vladimir Putin that the activists were “obviously” not pirates.
Although the defence still had not received notification of the new charges from the Investigative Committee last night, Sergei Golubok, a Greenpeace lawyer in Murmansk, welcomed the news the charges had been reduced.
But Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said in a statement that they were “no more hooligans than they were pirates” and said the charges will be contested.