MOSCOW, April 17 Russian police detained two
dozen Greenpeace activists on Tuesday for protesting against
Arctic drilling after Russia's largest oil producer signed a
landmark deal with Exxon Mobil Corp to jointly prospect
for oil in the far north.
A spokeswoman for the environmental group, Vera Bakasheva,
said a total of 23 activists were arrested for holding an
unsanctioned rally outside Russia's Arctic Oil and Gas
Conference in Moscow.
"We wanted to give the message to the people at the
conference that drilling in the Arctic is dangerous and needs to
be stopped," Bakasheva said.
The protest was organised after Rosneft and Exxon earlier
this week sealed a wide-reaching partnership granting both sides
access to each others' reserves.
The deal paved the way for both companies to prospect for
oil in three areas of Russia's Arctic Kara Sea, estimated by
Rosneft to hold 36 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.
Rosneft, Russia's largest oil producer, is relying on the
Arctic's vast resources for future growth in order to achieve
its long-term goal of sustaining output at above 10 million
barrels per day as its oil-producing heartland of Western
Siberia begins to yield less.
But environmental groups fear exploration will disrupt the
region's fragile ecosystem. In particular, they worry that the
Arctic conditions - its remoteness, sub-zero climate, ice and
high winds - could make a potential spill disastrous.
Activists, who held banners proclaiming "Save the Arctic"
and "Don't Invest in Arctic Destruction," face fines of up to
1000 roubles ($34) at a hearing set for Monday, said Bakasheva.
Greenpeace presented a report to Russia's parliament last
year, asking its lawmakers to help prevent Arctic drilling by
oil companies such as Gazprom and Shell.