Russian investigators on Wednesday formally charged two of 30 Greenpeace campaigners detained for two months over an open-sea protest against Arctic oil drilling with piracy, an activist said.

"The first two activists have been charged with piracy," Mikhail Kreindlin, a representative of Greenpeace, told AFP. "These activists are from Brazil and Britain."

President Vladimir Putin last week raised hopes that the activists would face lesser charges when he said that they "are not pirates", but had nonetheless broken international law by protesting close to a Russian oil rig.

The crew of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker was detained in September for two months.

They are now in pre-trial detention centres in the cities of Murmansk and Apatity, nearly 2,000 kilometres (1200 miles) north of Moscow and above the Arctic circle.

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