Ten Greenpeace UK activists have been acquitted of aggravated trespass charges on Friday. Campaigners say the verdict should have seismic consequences for UK energy policy.
In May, the activists gathered at the Navigator Terminals in Essex. Their goal was to block a tanker carrying 33,000-tonnes of Russian diesel. They were successful after climbing onto the jetty where the vessel had been due to dock.
Appearing at Chelmsford Magistrates Court last Thursday, the activists pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated trespass on grounds that imports of Russian fossil fuels “have funded the Russian government’s state terrorism in Ukraine”.
Judge agreed Russia’s war in Ukraine amounts to terrorism
The judge’s ruling was founded on the basis that Russia’s actions in Ukraine could amount to terrorism as defined by UK law and that the activists were stopping an illegal activity – namely the funding of terrorism. This is the first time that a UK court has accepted the argument that Russia’s war in Ukraine ‘could be described as terrorism’.
Several expert witnesses for the defence testified on how revenues from oil and gas exports are a key funding stream for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. In the first six months since the start of the invasion, Russia is estimated to have made €158 billion from its oil and gas exports, with €43 billion going into Russia’s federal budget.
Back in May, Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov publicly stated that revenue from the export of oil will be used in part to fund the “special operation” in Ukraine.
One activist was a former senior army officer
One of the activists, Mike Grant, a former paratrooper and lieutenant colonel who scaled the jetty, was pleased with the result.
“This verdict is not just a relief for us but a complete vindication of the ethical beliefs that led us to act. I’ve been in the military for a quarter of a century and I’m not easily shocked. But the sheer horror unleashed by Putin’s army in Ukraine still haunts me now as it did when the war started. Entire towns reduced to rubble, thousands of people lying dead or wounded – not to mention the mass graves and war crimes. I just couldn’t believe that all this devastation was partly funded by Russian oil being imported into the UK. How on earth was that allowed to happen?”
A government ban on the import of Russian oil is due to kick in at the end of the year, ten months after the start of the war in Ukraine. But Greenpeace UK is now calling on ministers to bring the ban forward and extend it to all fossil fuel imports from Russia.