“The condition of the ship is worsening, and the security currently guarding the ship is not taking as good care of it as I would,” Ubels, a Dutch national, said via a translator during his court hearing.
Ubels and the other activists are being held in pre-trial detention in the Arctic port of Murmansk, and face charges of piracy, which carries a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison. The activists come from 18 different countries and include six Britons. Investigators also claim that they found drugs on board the ship and have hinted that new charges could be forthcoming.
All of the activists have been refused bail, despite bail securities being pledged, and the head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, offering in an open letter to President Vladimir Putin to come to Russia as a human bail guarantee ahead of trials. On Thursday, 11 Nobel peace laureates also wrote to Putin, calling on him to drop the “excessive” charges of piracy.
Russian officials do not appear ready to compromise, however. On Thursday, a judge at Murmansk regional court turned down the bail appeal from Ubels, saying that while he was not likely to commit further crimes, he was a “flight risk”. He also dismissed the suggestion that Ubels needed to be out of prison to maintain the Arctic Sunrise.
The ship has been moored in a military harbour outside Murmansk, but was towed into the city’s main port this week after an alarm went off on board. Dmitry Kuzmin, a lawyer for Greenpeace in Murmansk, said on Thursday that 200 tonnes of oil were on board the ship, and the organisation remains worried that left unmanned, the ship poses a risk even when docked. Greenpeace activists do not know why the alarm went off, and are worried that the ship has been left untended.
Ubels wrote a letter to Russian investigators from prison this month, raising alarm over the state of the ship.
“Soon, if not already, the generator that provides the ship’s electricity will stop running,” Ubels told the judge yesterday in a handwritten letter. “With this, all the ship’s main functions will stop working … The ship will no longer have an alarm system and common leakages of sea water into the engine room will no longer raise alarms.”
Ubels was taken to the Arctic Sunrise by Russian officials on one occasion, but told the court that there was not enough time for him to explain everything that was wrong with the ship, and added that basic maintenance tasks were not being carried out.
Martin Groenstege, the Dutch consul in St Petersburg, said: “He [Ubels] told me that he has the feeling that the Russians don’t know who is responsible for taking care of the ship.
“The investigative committee says the coastguard is in charge, and the coastguard says the investigative committee is in charge,” said Groenstege, who is in Murmansk to provide consular assistance.
In brief remarks after the hearing, Ubels told the Guardian that there was a real chance that the ship could sink.
“If it’s not properly monitored, then definitely yes,” he said, before being ushered away in handcuffs by guards to the holding facility where he and the other activists are being held pending trial.