* Environmental protesters being held on piracy charges
* First foreigners to appeal against detention fail
* Finish minister resigns over separate Greenpeace protest
By Gabriela Baczynska
MOSCOW, Oct 11 Two Britons held in Russia for a
Greenpeace protest were ordered to remain in pre-trial detention
on Friday, a defeat for the first of the many foreigners among
the 30 detainees to seek bail.
Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan and Greenpeace activist
Phillip Ball, who, like the others, face piracy charges, had
appealed against their detention through late November.
The court, in the northern port city of Murmansk, had
already denied bail to four Russians held for the Sept. 18
protest in which a Greenpeace boat was boarded by security
forces close to an oil rig in the Arctic.
The arrests and the piracy charges - punishable by up to 15
years in prison - appear aimed at deterring protests and sending
a message that Moscow will not tolerate any such actions.
Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic
energy resources and face similar concerns from
environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a
row about a Greenpeace protest last year.
Some activists had tried to scale the Gazprom-owned
Prirazlomnaya rig which is an important part of
Russia's plans to develop the resource-rich Arctic, a move
Greenpeace says could destroy a pristine environment.
Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against
some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found
on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were
illegal items aboard.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the activists were
not pirates but that they violated international law. The head
of the Kremlin's advisory body on human rights has said he would
ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges.
Greenpeace says the protest was peaceful and calls the
piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include
American, Argentinian, Australian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch,
French, Italian, New Zealand, Swiss and Turkish citizens,
In neighbouring Finland, a government minister who had
appeared sympathetic to Greenpeace in a separate Arctic protest,
Heidi Hautala, minister for international development who is
also in charge of overseeing state ownership in companies was
criticised by colleagues and the media for trying to dissuade
state-owned shipping firm Arctia Shipping from filing a criminal
complaint against the protest group.
Protesters scaled an Arctia icebreaker, contracted by Shell,
in Helsinki last year to demonstrate against Arctic drilling.
Hautala, a member of Finland's Green Party, said she thought
a state-owned firm should seek dialogue rather than legal
"I feel, however, that it would be very difficult for me to
work in this role and therefore I see that it is best solution
that I resign," she said.