More than a dozen Greenpeace activists and a freelance video journalist face up to 15 years in jail after being charged with piracy by the Russian authorities following a protest at an Arctic oil rig.
Videographer Kieron Bryan from London was among 14 people charged yesterday alongside fellow Britons Alexandra Harris from Devon, Philip Ball from Chipping Norton and Anthony Perret from Newport.
They were part of a 30-strong crew who used Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise ship to protest against oil drilling in the Arctic last month.
Two activists tried to hang a banner from the platform of the Prirazlomnaya, Russia's first offshore rig in the Arctic which is owned by state-controlled energy company Gazprom, but were stopped when members of the Russian security service abseiled from a helicopter and seized the ship at gunpoint.
Activists from countries including Argentina, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Finland and Brazil were also charged yesterday and were reportedly taken to the Murmansk office of the Investigative Committee, Russia's equivalent of the FBI.
Greenpeace said they expected charges to be brought against all of the group, which is made up of activists from 18 countries and includes a further two Britons.
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace's international executive director, described the piracy charge as absurd.
He said the activists felt compelled to bear witness to the slow but unrelenting destruction of the Arctic and that the way they had been treated represented the most serious threat to Greenpeace's peaceful environmental activism since the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by French intelligence operatives in Auckland Harbour in 1985.
"A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience," said Naidoo.
"This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest. Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable. It is utterly irrational, it is designed to intimidate and silence us, but we will not be cowed."
Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously said the activists were not pirates, but may have broken international law. Independent