* Environmental protesters being held on piracy charges
* First foreigners to appeal against detention fail
* Finnish minister resigns over separate Greenpeace protest
By Gabriela Baczynska
MOSCOW, Oct 11 Two Britons held in Russia for a
Greenpeace protest were ordered to remain in pre-trial detention
on Friday, a defeat for the first of the many foreigners among
the 30 detainees to seek bail.
Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan and Greenpeace activist
Phillip Ball, who, like the others, face piracy charges, had
appealed against an order that they be held through late
The court, in the northern port city of Murmansk, has
already denied bail to four Russians held for the Sept. 18
protest in which a Greenpeace ship was boarded by security
forces close to an oil rig in the Arctic.
The piracy charges - punishable by up to 15 years' jail-
appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate
attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic
that Greenpeace says could destroy a pristine environment.
Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic
energy resources and face similar concerns from
environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a
row about a Greenpeace protest last year.
Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they
had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin's
advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors
to withdraw the piracy charges.
Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written
to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to
stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on
Putin's spokesman said the letter, published in Western
media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said
it was unlikely to affect the legal process.
"(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about
the investigative activity that is taking place," Dmitry Peskov
Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against
some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found
on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were
illegal items aboard.
Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned
Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and
calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded.
Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian,
Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian,
New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian
In neighbouring Finland, a government minister who had
appeared sympathetic to Greenpeace in a separate Arctic protest,
Heidi Hautala, minister for international development who is
also in charge of overseeing state ownership of companies, was
criticised by colleagues and the media for trying to dissuade
state-owned shipping firm Arctia Shipping from filing a criminal
complaint against the protest group.
Protesters scaled an Arctia icebreaker, contracted by Shell,
in Helsinki last year to demonstrate against Arctic drilling.
Hautala, a member of the Green Party, said she thought a
state-owned firm should seek dialogue rather than legal action.
"I feel, however, that it would be very difficult for me to
work in this role and therefore I see that it is best solution
that I resign," she said.