Greenpeace chief asks to meet Putin after arrests

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo of South Africa gestures during a news conference in Moscow on Aug 14, 2012. The head of Greenpeace asked on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2013, for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin following Ru
Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo of South Africa gestures during a news conference in Moscow on Aug 14, 2012. The head of Greenpeace asked on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2013, for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin following Russia's arrest of the entire crew of the group's ship that protested against Arctic oil drilling. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - The head of Greenpeace asked on Wednesday for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin following Russia's arrest of the entire crew of the group's ship that protested against Arctic oil drilling.

Greenpeace's executive director Kumi Naidoo said he was willing to travel to Moscow at any moment to secure the release of the 30 crew members of the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker.

"I am willing to move my life to Russia for the duration of this affair. I would offer myself as a guarantor for the good conduct of the Greenpeace activists, were they to be released on bail," Mr Naidoo wrote in a letter to Mr Putin.

"We are willing to face the consequences of what we did, as long as those consequences are within a nation's criminal code as any reasonable person understands that code to be."

Russia's security forces boarded the ship last month and detained all its crew members - who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States - after several activists attempted to board a Barents Sea oil platform owned by the state-owned energy firm Gazprom.

The crew's 28 campaigners and two accompanying reporters have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24 in Russia's Arctic cities of Murmansk and Apatity.

They have been charged with piracy and face up to 15 years in jail.

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin to Mr Naidoo's letter. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov struck a tough stance in a television interview aired on Tuesday.

"We have been hearing about the activities of this vessel, Arctic Sunrise, for many years," Mr Lavrov told the state-run international broadcaster RT.

"They have been engaging in provocations all over the world. In all cases they were punished, one way or another."