Greenpeace blocking Russian tanker carrying oil from Arctic from mooring in Rotterdam

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AMSTERDAM - Greenpeace International activists are attempting to prevent a Russian tanker carrying the first oil from a new offshore platform in the Arctic from mooring at Rotterdam Port.

The environmental group said Thursday it has sent two ships, Rainbow Warrior III and Esperanza, plus rubber rafts, paragliders and activists on shore, to meet the Mikhail Ulyanov, a tanker chartered by Russia's state-controlled oil company, Gazprom OAO.

Activists have painted the words "No Arctic Oil" in large letters on the hull of the Russian tanker, while rubber rafts are blocking access to the ship's mooring place, the group said.

Greenpeace opposes oil production inside the Arctic Circle, warning of the danger of a spill in a pristine and difficult-to-reach area — as well as the threat of worsening global warming caused by using fossil fuels.

In September, 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists were arrested and charged with piracy after a protest near Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya offshore Arctic platform. They were released shortly before the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year. Their ship Arctic Sunrise is still being held by Russian authorities.

"Thirty of us went to prison for shining a light on this dangerous Arctic oil, and we refuse to be intimidated," said Faiza Oulahsen, one of the Dutch activists who spent months in a Russian jail cell.

"This tanker is the first sign of a reckless new push to exploit the Arctic."

Rotterdam Port spokesman Minco van Heezen said on Wednesday afternoon the Ulyanov ship had turned off its identifier signal — an unusual but not illegal move, presumably to try to avoid confrontation with the Greenpeace activists.

He said the ship remained in contact with authorities and was visible on marine radar. It has permission to dock and unload its oil. French oil company Total SA plans to purchase it.

Rotterdam is Europe's largest port, and about a third of the oil stored there comes from Russia.

The Netherlands' national broadcaster NOS, which has a camera team on one of the Greenpeace ships, reported that the tanker was spotted entering the harbour early Thursday morning. The Dutch coast guard has ordered Greenpeace ships to remain a safe distance away from the Ulyanov.

Organizations: Greenpeace International, Gazprom OAO, Total SA

Geographic location: Arctic, Rotterdam Port, Russia AMSTERDAM Sochi Europe Netherlands

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