[Marxism] Anti-imperialist troops repel invaders

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 24 09:31:15 MST 2013

NY Times November 23, 2013
Captain of Seized Greenpeace Ship Speaks From Russia

MOSCOW — The Russian commandos who boarded a Greenpeace ship in the 
Arctic two months ago were coldly professional at first, pointing 
automatic weapons at terrified crew members and forcing them to kneel.

But after discerning no threat, they began plundering the crew’s alcohol 
supply, and quickly descended into drunken revelry.

So went the account of Peter Willcox, the American captain of the ship, 
the Arctic Sunrise, in his first interview since his release from 
detention. He recalled his odyssey through the Russian legal system, 
from arrest at sea to confinement in grim, concrete prisons where guards 
showed occasional gestures of kindness.

“The way we were arrested was quite scary,” Mr. Willcox, 60, said on 
Saturday by telephone from St. Petersburg, where all but two of the 30 
people who were on board the Arctic Sunrise have been released on bail 
ahead of a trial in February.

About a dozen commandos descended onto the ship on Sept. 19. They “wore 
balaclavas and uniforms with no insignia of any kind, and rappelled out 
of a helicopter,” he said. “They made the crew kneel on deck and took 
over the ship as quickly as possible. They had machine guns out.”

The commandos locked most of the crew members, who had been protesting 
oil drilling in the Arctic to the north of Russia, in their cabins. But 
soon enough, as it became clear that the crew posed no real danger, the 
air of sleek professionalism disappeared. Besides, they knew there had 
to be alcohol on board.

“The first thing they did was search everybody’s cabins and steal 
everybody’s liquor, and then they proceeded to drink it,” Mr. Willcox 
said of the first night under Russian command. The Russians staggered on 
the deck and were “quite drunk,” he said.

Mr. Willcox, who was locked in his cabin like the others, likened the 
party on his ship that night to a maritime tradition “from the 
square-rigger days,” when the first booty usually found by an invading 
crew was the rum.

He had never spent more than a night in jail for Greenpeace before, and 
he described his detention as trying.

At one point, Mr. Willcox recalled kneeling in despair in the corner of 
a prison yard, in a freezing rain, contemplating spending a decade in 
the Russian gulag. “I would sit and wonder, ‘How the heck did I get in 
this situation?’ ” he said. One guard, though, allowed him to walk 
without handcuffs after meeting with investigators on a sunny day.

Before being transferred to St. Petersburg, the 28 crew members and two 
freelance journalists who had been on board the Arctic Sunrise were held 
in a jail in Murmansk, a glum northern port. There, Mr. Willcox said, he 
was served fish-head stew, which he enjoyed, and cold mashed potatoes 
with herring, which went down with some difficulty.

He and the other activists face charges of hooliganism, punishable by up 
to seven years in prison. Russian prosecutors initially also pressed, 
but now appear to be ready to drop, charges of piracy, which carry a 
maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Greenpeace International sent the ship to the Pechora Sea to draw 
attention to the potential environmental threats caused by a rush to 
exploit natural resources in the Arctic. The activists wanted to hang 
banners on a drilling platform operated by Gazprom, the Russian 
state-controlled energy giant. Mr. Willcox said the Arctic Sunrise was 
certainly in international waters when the commandos boarded it.

Russia says the activists threatened a complicated and dangerous piece 
of industrial equipment, in a region where impromptu protests cannot be 
tolerated because they increase the risk of accidents.

For Greenpeace, it was the worst crisis since the sinking of the Rainbow 
Warrior by French agents in a New Zealand harbor in 1985. One crew 
member was killed in that attack. Mr. Willcox, a 32-year veteran of 
Greenpeace, was also captain of the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed.

More information about the Marxism mailing list