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Greenpeace activists could face Russian drug charges

Russian investigators say they found "narcotic substances" aboard a detained Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel. Russian-Dutch ties remain testy on Wednesday despite an apology over the arrest of a Russian diplomat.

Russian investigators revealed on Wednesday that several detainees from the Greenpeace vessel – charged last week with piracy - would face charges for "other grave crimes," including possession of "narcotic substances."

On Friday, Russian investigators charged 30 members of the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, with piracy over a protest against oil drilling. The Netherlands responded by launching legal action to free the activists.

The 30 Greenpeace activists - including a freelance journalists - face up to 15 years in jail for the piracy charges alone, with the Arctic Sunrise seized on September 18 following a protest nearly 2,000 kilometers north of Moscow.

Investigators said they were still attempting to determine who "rammed coast guard motor boats on purpose, preventing border guards from fulfilling their duties."

They also claimed some of the equipment on the Arctic Sunrise was of "dual purpose" and "could have been used not just for ecological purposes."

"Taking into consideration the data received in the course of the investigation of the criminal case, the charge already filed against everyone is set to be adjusted," the Investigative Committee said.

"It's obvious to the investigation that a number of individuals will be charged with committing other grave crimes."

Drug claims "suspicious", says Greenpeace

The "narcotic substances" found on the boat were "presumably poppy straw and morphine," investigators said. Greenpeace responded by saying that "any claim that something other than medical supplies were found should be regarded with great suspicion."

The activist group added the boat had been searched by sniffer dogs in Norway, and hit out at the drug allegations on their Twitter account: "The Investigative Committee 'found' narcotics. We are waiting for it to find an atomic bomb and a striped elephant. This is possible in Russia these days and can hardly surprise anybody."

Several public figures, such as actor Jude Law and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, have come out in support of the activists, while Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo has requested a meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

"Were our friends to be released on bail, I offer myself as security against the promise that the 28 Greenpeace International activists will answer for their peaceful protest according to the criminal code of Russia," Naidoo said in an open letter to Putin.

Apology has its catch

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Dutch foreign ministry issued an apology over the detention of Russian diplomat Dmitry Borodin, having "concluded that the detention and arrest of a Russian diplomat, who is guaranteed full diplomatic immunity, violated" international law.

"For this, the Netherlands apologizes to Russia," a statement read. "At the same time (Foreign Minister Frans) Timmermans personally understands the behavior of the police involved, who acted out of professional responsibility when confronted with a situation that they discovered after being called."

Dutch police have declined to comment on the incident in which Borodin was detained at a station for several hours. Dutch media reports have, however, cited police documents alleging Borodin was drunk and neighbors said he was mistreating his two young children.

ph/mz (Reuters, AFP)