Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise'

Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise'. Photo: AP

Russia’s top investigative agency says it will prosecute Greenpeace activists on piracy charges for trying to climb onto an Arctic offshore drilling platform owned by the state-controlled gas company Gazprom.

The 30 activists from 18 countries were on a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, which was seized last week by the Russian Coast Guard.

The ship was towed on Tuesday into a small bay near Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk and the activists were bussed to the local headquarters of Russia’s Investigative Committee late at night for several hours of questioning and then into a detention facility.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s main federal investigative agency, said its agents will question all those who took part in the protest and detain the ‘‘most active’’ of them on piracy charges.

Piracy carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of 500,000 rubles ($AUS16,601).

Briton Alex Harris, 27, works for Greenpeace in Australia and is one of the activists being held.

The Australian resident arrested by Russian authorities over a Greenpeace protest has contacted her parents, saying she and the other campaigners are safe.

Greenpeace International lawyers are demanding access to its members from the Arctic Sunrise, which has been towed close to the port of Murmansk.

Cliff Harris says he received a text from his daughter on Monday night saying the group members, who were protesting against oil drilling, were ‘‘tired but all okay’’.

Mr Harris said his daughter worked as a digital communications officer in Australia and he was surprised to learn she had been detained by the Russians.

‘‘This was all news to us, as we didn’t know she was in the middle of it,’’ he said from his home in Devon.

‘‘We knew she was going out there and thought she was looking forward to seeing polar bears etc, not this.’’

Mr Harris said the first he and his wife Linda knew of the protest was when their daughter emailed to say that two activists had been detained trying to climb on to the oil rig.

‘‘She said activists had attempted to climb an oil platform, that the Russian coastguard had got pretty violent and was shooting guns into the air and water, so they turned back and they’re now holding two of the activists on their ship which has been following them for several days now,’’ he said.

‘‘She just stated that she was perfectly safe and they were three miles away from any problems.’’

The next day, Ms Harris and a colleague named Colin - likely to be Colin Russell, the only Australian citizen detained - had darted to the communications room and locked themselves in to send a SOS message, Mr Harris said.

‘‘It was a scary thing to happen to them,’’ he said.

AP, PA