It is more than a month since Russian authorities arrested 28 activists and two freelance journalists carrying out an action in the Pechora Sea for Greenpeace – protesting the presence of a Gazprom oil rig in Arctic waters.
The 30 are being held in prisons in the nearby ice-cold, dank port of Murmansk. Among them is one of my oldest and dearest friends, Frank Hewetson.
As long as I’ve known him I’ve enjoyed Frank’s dry sense of humour and admired his passionate commitment to the environment. As a seasoned activist, he knows that his “actions” for Greenpeace result in – for instance – getting blasted by icy water, being impaled by a French fisherman’s grappling hook and having his life with partner Nina and their children disrupted by arrest.
While discussions continue to try to avoid a court case against the Arctic 30 with what are now charges of hooliganism (which carry a potential seven-year jail term), family and friends have been communicating with the detainees via post. I received this letter from Frank last week and publish it here to give a flavour (no pun intended) of life in Murmansk. It will be hard for anyone to keep their spirits up as the weeks pass – but for now, reviewing the food and describing the decor are typical of Frank’s wry way of passing on what is a more sombre message.