- Created on Thursday, 17 October 2013 12:18
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By MEAGHAN MITCHELL
In Russian custody with pending charges of piracy, Paul Ruzycki, a 25-year Greenpeace activist from Port Colborne, was finally able to contact his family.
On Oct. 6, after more than two weeks with no word, his family received an e-mail that included photos of a handwritten three-page note penned by Ruzycki. Before this, the last contact from the crewmembers was tweets about the Russian Coast Guard (RCG) kicking in the door to the captain’s quarters.
On Sept. 18, 28 Greenpeace activists were protesting, along with a videographer and photographer, Arctic oil drilling at the Gazprom oil platform, Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea.
The RCG intervened and detained two protesters. The following day they boarded the Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, of which Ruzycki is chief mate, and detained the remaining 28 on board. The vessel was then towed to the port city of Murmansk, Russia. Once it arrived, the detained members were transported to a jail there.
In the following weeks, the Arctic 30 were told by the courts they were being held for two months pending an investigation into piracy. The sentence for piracy in Russian has a 15-year maximum sentence.
A day before the letter arrived, Oct. 5, solidarity rallies were held around the world protesting the Arctic 30’s detainment. Locally, Ruzycki’s family held a rally and invited friends and supporters to Lock 8 Park in Port Colborne. Over 100 people arrived at the park to hear from the family and show support.
“The entire world is doing events like this,” says Ruzycki’s sister, Patti Ruzycki Stirling.
A giant greeting card was available for supporters to sign along with paper peace doves that will be presented to Ruzycki when he returns home.
Stirling introduced herself and the family and then thanked everyone for attending. She announced the most recent update from Greenpeace.
“The Netherlands has stepped forward onto the world stage ... demanding the release of the Arctic Sunrise vessel ... [and] the release of the Arctic 30.” Stirling encouraged attendees to contact any level of Canadian government and ask for its action in getting Ruzycki home safely. She says that according to documentation presented, “Piracy is not what Greenpeace did, piracy is what the Russian Coast Guard did.”
Another of Ruzycki’s sisters, Debbie Ruzycki Reid, and her daughter, Lindsay Reid, were unable to attend the Port Colborne rally but instead organized a rally in Wolfville, N.S.
Writing from cell 421 of the Murmansk jail, Ruzycki justifies his actions by finishing his letter home with “peace, it’s not just an idea some of us have.”