Greenpeace Activists Getting the Pussy Riot Treatment in Russia, Charged With Piracy

Just when they'd almost thought they dodged a bullet, Russia decided to charge Greenpeace activists under its piracy law Wednesday. A crew of 30 was arrested last week after two of its members tried to scale a Gazprom-operated oil rig in the Arctic Sea. On Wednesday, Greenpeace tweeted out each indictment under the law. At least 13 crew members were charged in total, including dual U.S.-Swedish citizen Dima Litvinov.

Russia photojournalist Denis Sinyakov, who was arrested with the crew despite a media outlet's statement that he was on board the group's ship on assignment, was not among those charged. British videographer Kieron Bryan was charged with piracy, the New York Times reports.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had originally weighed in to say that the activists were obviously not pirates, just stupid and inconsiderate, which many took to be a good sign for their case. (A sentence under Russia's piracy law carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, while hooliganism or another minor offense is just a fraction of that length.)

The environmental activist group Greenpeace is known for daring actions of civil disobedience that draw attention to perceived issues of international environmental neglect. Earlier this week, prominent Russian scientist (and poet) Alexander Gorodnitsky urged the government to let the activists go, because convicting them on heavy charges would play into Greenpeace's plan of making Russian authorities look, well, authoritarian. Many have speculated that punishment for the Arctic Sunrise crew will be particularly harsh because they targeted a rig operated by a state-owned oil and gas company.

"A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience," said Greenpeace International Director Kumi Naidoo. "This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest." (Maybe Gorodnitsky — who agrees with authorities that the protest was stupid and dangerous — has a point.)

Greenpeace launched a campaign to get 30 "Twitter millionaires" — people who have more than a million followers — to Tweet out messages of support. The first to respond to their call was British comedian Stephen Fry, who re-Tweeted their appeal. Fry has already sparred with Russian authorities over the country's anti-gay laws, and one of the leading proponents of the laws in the Russian Duma called Fry a "bringer of evil."

Many are drawing comparisons between the treatment of the Greenpeace crew to the women of Pussy Riot, who were convicted of hooliganism just over a year ago after filming an anti-government music video in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The group's member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova concluded a 9-day hunger strike over unfair prison conditions yesterday, days after she was hospitalized over the weekend. Today, Tolokonnikova said she would resume the strike if her demands were not met. The three members of the band were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism — widely believed a cover charge for upsetting authorities — despite international outrage.