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Netherlands demands answers from Russia after Greenpeace ship comes under fire in Arctic waters

The Dutch government has raised concerns with Moscow after a Greenpeace ship sailing under its flag came under fire in Russian waters.

Russian president Vladimir Putin (left) and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during the former's visit to the Netherlands in April.The Russian coastguard is reported to have fired 11 warning shots at the Arctic Sunrise after activists tied it to a drilling platform owned by the oil giant Gazprom.

Two protesters were arrested and led away from the rig during the demonstration against oil exploration in polar waters.

A spokesman for Greenpeace said: “The coastguard is using unacceptable levels of violence to protect the Gazprom platform.”

The Dutch foreign ministry said it was seeking clarification over reports that activists had been shot at and threatened. “This concerns the right to peaceful demonstrations, which must not put safety at sea and navigation at stake,” said a spokesman.

A similar stand-off in August saw the Russian coastguard fire warning shots at the Arctic Sunrise in its waters.

The incident is the latest in a series of flashpoints between the Netherlands and Russia during a year that was supposed to promote relations between the countries.

The ‘Nederland-Ruslandjaar’ featured a state visit by President Vladimir Putin on April 8 which prompted a flurry of protests about Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Amsterdam city council flew the rainbow flag from official buildings during Putin’s visit and protesters doorstepped the Scheepvaartmuseum, where the president was dining with Queen Beatrix.

In July a film crew from Groningen was arrested and questioned for allegedly interviewing minors about homosexuality, in violation of Russia’s new law that bans ‘propaganda’ about same-sex relationships.

Relations between the two countries were also soured by the suicide of a Russian activist, Aleksandr Dolmatov, while he was wrongly detained in a deportation centre at Rotterdam airport.