World News

Arbitration panel tells Russia to pay Dutch $6 million over Greenpeace boat seizure

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Russia must pay the Netherlands more than 5 million euros ($5.79 million)in damages for seizing a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel in 2013 and arresting 30 people aboard, an international arbitration panel ruled on Tuesday.

Russian Federal Security Service agents captured the Arctic Sunrise in international waters after a protest against an oil platform. Those on board were detained in Russian prisons for months and released shortly before the Sochi Olympics.

The five-member arbitration panel, based in Vienna, ruled in 2015 that Russia was liable under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has now put a price on damages to the ship, as well as the wrongful arrest and suffering of 30 people aboard.

“This decision makes clear that ships in international waters cannot be forcibly boarded and those aboard arrested at a whim,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement.

Russia declined to take part in arbitration, arguing that it was acting within its sovereign rights to seize the ship in an area of international waters where Russia enjoys exclusive economic rights. Activists had earlier tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform, operated by Gazprom.

The arbitration panel found it had jurisdiction under UNCLOS, which Russia is party to and which empowers it to resolve such disputes. Moscow was not immediately available for comment.

Russia’s state-operated RIA Novosti news agency reported that Moscow would review the decision but cited unnamed sources at the Foreign Ministry saying it still rejected the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Greepeace said the panel’s rulings “resoundingly reaffirm the right to peaceful protest at sea.”

It acknowledged that it is unclear whether Russia would comply with the ruling and pay damages.

Any funds Russia pays will be forwarded to Greenpeace International by the Dutch government, the environmental group said. They will go to ship repairs and as compensation for the 30 arrestees.

Reporting by Toby Sterling. Additional reporting by Anthony Deutch, Bart Meijer and Polina Devitt.; Editing by Robin Pomeroy