‘Only drug on Greenpeace ship was medical morphine’: Wives of two men held in Russia claim innocent husbands are being kept in inhumane conditions

The men’s relatives describe the conditions in the prison as worse than the North Pole

Alec Luhn
Thursday 10 October 2013 19:00 BST
Greenpeace activists hold a banner in front of the Gazprom office in Paris
Greenpeace activists hold a banner in front of the Gazprom office in Paris (AP)

The wives of a Greenpeace activist and a freelance photographer charged with piracy, have disputed allegations that illegal drugs were on board the Arctic Sunrise and described the “extreme” conditions their husbands face in pre-trial detention in Murmansk.

“My husband never used drugs in his life. I think it’s a fake story to justify the detention of the ship and the activists,” Veronika Dmitriyeva, the wife of Greenpeace Russia media director Andrei Allakhverdov said.

“As far as I know, morphine is on every ship and is used as medicine,” said Alina Zhiganova, the wife of photographer Denis Sinyakov.

On Wednesday, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that illegal drugs, “presumably poppy straw and morphine,” had been found on the Arctic Sunrise and promised additional charges against some of those who had been on board. Greenpeace called the drug allegations a “fabrication” and said the Russian authorities must be referring to medical supplies the ship is required to carry.

Following a protest against Russia’s first Arctic oil rig, 28 crew members and activists and two freelance journalists were sentenced on 26 September to two months in pre-trial detention on charges of piracy, which carries a 10- to 15-year prison sentence. Mr Allakhverdov, Mr Sinyakov, ship doctor Yekaterina Zaspa and activist Roman Dolgov were denied bail this week, and the Murmansk court will hear bail appeals today for activist Philip Ball and freelance video journalist Kieron Bryan, two of the six Britons in confinement.

On Monday, Greenpeace lawyers said they would file a case with the European Court of Human Rights over the “inhumane” conditions faced by the activists, some of whom are kept in cold cells and do not have access to drinking water or medicine, they said.

When Alina Zhiganova was able to exchange a few words with her husband last week in the hallway of the court, he requested warm socks and a fleece because it was “ferociously cold” in his cell, she said. Mr Sinyakov “has never looked as bad as he looked at the appeal on Tuesday,” she added.

Mr Allakhverdov’s cell was also cold, but that the temperature had since improved, he told his wife last week when they spoke for 30 minutes through glass at his detention centre, Ms Dmitriyeva said. But the wardens don’t give her husband medicine for the headaches he often suffers, and she was not allowed to pass him medicine, she added.

“Russian prison – that’s even more extreme conditions than the North Pole” her husband had hoped to see, Ms Dmitriyeva said.

To fight boredom, Ms Zhiganova brought her husband Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Ms Dmitriyeva brought Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but the books must go through censorship in the detention centre before their husbands can request them from the library.

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