Russia launches Arctic oil shipment

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The first ever shipment of oil from offshore Arctic waters to Europe has been launched, in a "defining moment" for the region, according to Greenpeace.

The environmental group said Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that state-owned energy company Gazprom has launched the shipment.

In a telephone call with Gazprom chief executive Alexey Miller, who was on board the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic's Pechora sea, President Putin reportedly said the shipment represents a "further expansion of Russia's presence in global energy markets".

The platform was the subject of a high-profile protest last year, after which 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists known as the "Arctic 30" were imprisoned for more than two months on charges of piracy and hooliganism before being released. Six were British.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: "This is a defining moment both for the Arctic and the rest of the world.

"Russia's state-owned energy companies are betting that the Arctic can provide a new source of power and profit for decades to come. International oil majors are teaming up with them to exploit this fragile region and shore up their flagging reserves.

"If we do not stop this Arctic oil rush, we risk not only the environment but our ability to shake off the power structures of the last century.

"This is not about turning from one source of fossil fuels to another. It is about speeding up the inevitable switch to clean technology while reducing the amount of energy we use overall.

"Never has the situation been so urgent or the solution so clear.

"Greenpeace, alongside millions of our supporters, will continue to stand against any oil company that tries to drill in the melting Arctic Ocean."

Greenpeace said the shipment was late, contained poor quality oil and posed a "huge risk" to the Arctic environment.

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