Arctic Oil Flows as Arctic 30 Granted Amnesty


by Sasha / Earth First! News

After a wave of pardons that gave amnesty to 25,000 people locked in Russia’s criminal justice system, many environmentalists seem relieved, elated even.

Yes, the protestors who scaled the Prirazlomnaya platform to protest oil production in the Arctic have been freed. The Arctic 30 were granted amnesty for crimes of hooliganry, which they did not commit. Similarly, Pussy Riot (one member having actually worked with Greenpeace Russia), were set free, just a few months ahead of their terms’ conclusion.

But on the other side of the coin, the Prirazlomnaya platform has just begun producing oil—the first oil production operation in the Arctic ever. And, of course, GLBT activists are criminalized, environmentalists protesting the Sochi Olympics are being hounded as Terrorists, and immigrants are being pushed further to the brink by individual and mass acts of violence in broad daylight.

Many see the pardoning of the powerful oil magnate, Michael Khodorkovsky, as another indication that, perhaps, Putin is lightening up about political opposition. However, Khodorkovsky is about to be put on trial a third time for financial issues linked to the oil company, Yukos, and there are signs that such charges could continue indefinitely.

This is not to say that Putin is getting tough on corporations. In fact, the current amnesty is a broader, more socio-political extension of an “economic amnesty” granted to white collar criminals earlier this year. It appears, if anything, that the amnesty will service the economies of growth and development that Putin has spearheaded.

To fully appreciate how well timed Putin’s amnesty is, one ought to also consider developments in Ukraine. Ukraine’s president, Yanukovich, balked at the EU’s financial deals, causing a massive North Atlantic propaganda spree in support for demonstrations against his regime. Putin supported Yanukovich with billions of dollars in “no strings attached” aid, linking Russia to the political repression going on in Ukraine.

At the same time as the Russian amnesty was granted, Yanukovich granted amnesty to all political opponents arrested on the street, so both Ukraine and Russia will come off as friends of the people as they sign new agreements on gas pipelines that will secure Russia’s economic access to EU markets.

Another thing to keep in mind pertaining to Ukraine’s link with Russia is that Russia is connected to China through the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). China just signed a land deal for 5 percent of Ukraine’s land base in order to produce food crops, so the region appears to be a flash-point for inter-imperialist rivalries between the North Atlantic and the BRICS.

At the end of the day, it appears that amnesty is only a nice face that Putin can put on Russia’s horrendous human rights record. The oil is flowing in the Arctic. Socially repressive laws persist along with extraction, infrastructure, and land grabs continue.

Then again, Putin looks great, which puts pressure on Obama. What if Obama liberated 25,000 prisoners tomorrow—including the remaining incarcerated members of the Move 9, Mumia, Leonard Peltier, Marie Mason, and other political prisoners?

We all know that’s not going to happen, but the quality of our own political repression here in the US becomes more transparent when Russia frees a quarter of a million prisoners virtually overnight. For that, I suppose, we should be thankful, and keep pressing to free all political prisoners and abolish the prison industry complex!

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