Arctic Sunrise headed back to Netherlands

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No image availableNL Times

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on its way back to The Netherlands after being seized by the Russian coastguard in Murmansk in September of last year, De Volkskrant reports.

The environmental organization's protest ship has left the port in Murmansk for the first time since it was impounded, and will take 10 days to sail back to The Netherlands.

The Arctic Sunrise was seized in September of last year when Greenpeace activists climbed aboard the Prirazlomnaya oil-drilling platform, belonging to Gazprom. The action was in protest of the environmental damage caused by oil-drilling activities in the Arctic Circle.

The Russian coast guard arrested the 30 activists and journalists on the ship, and they were in prison for several months on charges of piracy, a sentence which was later reduced to hooliganism. The Russian government dropped charges in December.

The protesters were released shortly before the Sochi Winter Olympics. The incident put further strain on Dutch-Russian relations, which have been unsteady for some time now. In April of last year, Russian President Putin's visit to Amsterdam was welcomed by rainbow flags in protest of a lobby in Russia's Parliament to ban "gay propaganda".

In March of this year, the Dutch Cabinet publicly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the country that became the scene of the tragic Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane crash that killed almost 200 Dutch nationals. The Netherlands made a push within Europe to take action against Russia, who is blamed for continuing to support pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals are underway.

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