Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" arrives at the Canary Islands after a settlement with Russia over its seizure. Picture: AFP/SAMUEL ARANDA
Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" arrives at the Canary Islands after a settlement with Russia over its seizure. Picture: AFP/SAMUEL ARANDA

The Hague — On Friday, the Netherlands and Russia settled a long-running dispute over the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship during an oil-drilling protest in 2013, with Moscow expected to pay €2.7m ($3m) in compensation.

The settlement, reached after the Dutch dragged Moscow to various courts following the incident, was reached after talks between Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“The Russian Federation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands ... have come to a full and final settlement of any and all mutual claims” arising from the incident, the Dutch foreign ministry said in a joint statement with Russia.

Russian commandos seized the Dutch-flagged ship in September 2013 and detained 30 Greenpeace activists and journalists on board after a protest at an offshore oil rig owned by Russian state oil giant Gazprom. The Dutch government then started several arbitration procedures and in 2017 the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ordered Russia to pay €5.4m ($6.03m) in damages.

The Dutch government did not put a figure on the final compensation on Friday, but Greenpeace Netherlands press officer Bram Karst told AFP: “The figure [€2.7m] is correct.”

“Russia is paying the Netherlands, [but] we don’t know exactly how it will be transferred” to Greenpeace, Karst added. “We are very happy with the result.” 

Moscow’s angry response to the 2013 protest, during which two Greenpeace activists tried to scale the giant Prirazlomnaya offshore platform, sparked an international outcry. Environmentalists warned that the structure posed a threat to the pristine Arctic ecology.

The activists — who became known as the “Arctic 30” — were initially accused of piracy, a charge later changed to hooliganism. They were detained for two months before being bailed then benefitting from a Kremlin-backed amnesty.

Russia handed the ship back in 2014, but Greenpeace said it had suffered considerable damage after being impounded for nine months in the north-western port of Murmansk.

Friday’s agreement, however, is an “example of an amicable settlement of disputes”, the joint Russo-Dutch statement said, adding that it was achieved on a “number of understandings”.

This included the “recognition of the rights relating to peaceful protest which shall be exercised at sea with generally accepted international regulations, procedures and practices”.

However, “while a coastal state should tolerate some level of nuisance from protest actions at sea, it has the right to take measures to prevent and respond to, including, where necessary, to prosecute” any action that broke international laws, put lives at risk or interrupted essential operations, the statement said.

AFP