MOSCOW – Greenpeace activists were first offered hot soup, then showered with blasts of cold water and pieces of metal after they stormed a floating Russia oil platform and erected climbing tents on the side of the rig Friday to protest drilling in the Arctic.
The six activists, who include Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo, spent several hours hanging off the side of the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea attached to the rig's mooring lines. They had prepared for a long occupation by bringing up supplies, including the tents, but evacuated after rig workers threw pieces of metal at them.
"Not just hosed water, but now metal being thrown by Gazprom crew at our activists," he said in a tweet, referring to the workers of a subsidiary of Russian energy company Gazprom that owns and operates the rig. "We're coming down."
In response to a question from the Los Angeles Times sent to him later through Twitter, Naidoo said the activists had indeed left the platform. Gazprom officials were not immediately available for comment on whether workers had used hoses on and threw metal objects at the activists.
Initially, two helicopters arrived at the platform, but left without disturbing the protesters. The activists managed to put a banner on the rig saying "Don't kill the Arctic."
"We're here peacefully and we will continue to draw the attention of Russian people and people around the world to what's happening there," Naidoo told The Associated Press by telephone from the platform hours before evacuating. "It's bad for Russia, it's bad for the planet."
Gazprom is pioneering Russia's oil drilling in the Arctic. The state-owned company installed the platform there last year and is preparing to drill the first well.
At first, crew members were friendly and offered them soup, said Naidoo, who was also able to tweet while still suspended from the rig.
"Gazprom crew told to make life difficult; regular blasts of icy water," one tweet said. An accompanying photo showed a stream of water hitting two of the activists.
Naidoo said the air temperature was 9 C (48 F), while the water was 8 C (46 F).
Gazprom told the AP in an emailed statement that the activists "have been invited to scale up to the platform for a constructive dialogue," but said that they refused. The company said that "all work on the platform proceeds as normal."
Naidoo, a South African, said the five activists with him include two from Germany, and one each from the United States, Canada and Finland.
The platform is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port, Murmansk, a city on the extreme northwestern edge of the Russian mainland.
Russian and international environmentalists have warned that drilling in the Russian Arctic could have disastrous consequences because of a lack of technology and infrastructure to deal with a possible spill in a remote region known for huge icebergs and severe storms.
An AP investigation last year found that at least 1 percent of Russia's annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year.
A report by Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund, issued last week, said that a spill from Prirazlomnaya could contaminate protected areas and nature reserves on the shore and islands within 20 hours, while emergency teams would take at least three days to reach the area.
Kumi Naidoo's Twitter feed: