Putin says Greenpeace activists not pirates, but did break law

Russia's President Putin delivers a speech during the III International Arctic forum in Salekhard

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the III International Arctic forum in Salekhard, …

SALEKHARD, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Greenpeace activists arrested for staging a protest at Russia's first offshore oil platform had violated international law but signaled they should not face charges of piracy.

The activists' ship was seized and towed to shore on Tuesday after two tried to scale the platform to protest against Russian plans to drill for oil in the Arctic which they say pose a threat to the fragile eco-system.

The 30 activists, who were onboard the ship, were due to be questioned on Wednesday, Greenpeace said, a day after Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal case on suspicion of piracy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

"It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates, but formally they were trying to seize this platform ... It is evident that those people violated international law," Putin said at an Arctic forum.

Russia is concerned such protests could undermine efforts to draw foreign investment to its efforts to tap rich Arctic resources.

Greenpeace said the detentions violated international law. Russia has said the protest at the Gazprom-owned oil platform violated the country's sovereignty.

(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Thomas Grove, Editing by Steve Gutterman)

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