Russia has lifted piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists and replaced them with accusations of hooliganism.
If found guilty, the 28 campaigners and two journalists could face a prison sentence of seven years instead of 15.
The 30 people on board Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship during the protest are being held in detention until late November in the northwest Russian city of Murmansk.
Back in September, the activists were charged with piracy by the Russian authorities for protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Two activists had tried to climb onto the Prirazlomnaya oil platform to hang a banner. It is Russia’s first offshore oil rig in the Arctic, owned by state-controlled energy giant Gazprom.
Greenpeace said the protest was peaceful and called the piracy charges absurd. Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said the new charges will be contested. “We will contest the trumped-up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations. They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality,” he said. “The Arctic 30 protested peacefully against Gazprom’s dangerous oil drilling and should be free.”