14 Nov 2013

Paul McCartney urges Putin to free Greenpeace activists

Sir Paul McCartney has written to Vladimir Putin to calling for the release of a group of Greenpeace activists, arrested after a protest at an oil drilling rig.

Paul McCartney and Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2003 (picture: Getty)

The former Beatle quoted one of his songs from the White Album, Back in the USSR, to appeal to the Russian president.

Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. Paul McCartney

Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists, known as the Arctic 30, remain in detention in St Petersburg and face charges of piracy and hooliganism.

They were arrested two months ago when their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was boarded by Russian authorities. Some of the protesters had attempted to scale a rig owned by Russian state-controlled oil company Gazprom.

‘Gee it’s good to be back home’

In the letter, Sir Paul wrote: “Forty-five years ago I wrote a song about Russia for the White Album, back when it wasn’t fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country.

“That song had one of my favourite Beatles lines in it: ‘Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it’s good to be back home.’

“Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?”

Greenpeace's Arctic 30 have been detained in Russia for two months (picture: Reuters)

The private letter continued: “Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair.

“I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian presidency are separate.

“Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?”

On Wednesday morning, Sir Paul said on Twitter he had received a response from the Russian ambassador:

And he responded:

Sir Paul is popular in Russia and performed to 100,000 people, including President Putin, in Moscow’s Red Square in 2003. Before the concert, Sir Paul was given a personal guided tour of the Kremlin by Putin, who was reported as telling him, “You are loved here.”

Since the Arctic Sunrise was seized eight weeks ago, world leaders including Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their concern for the fate of the prisoners.

Thirteen Nobel Peace Prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa have also spoken out.

More than two million people are reported to have sent letters and emails calling for the release of the Arctic 30.