MOSCOW - Two activists from Greenpeace were on Wednesday scaling an oil platform owned by state energy giant Gazprom in the Russian Arctic in a bid to stop it drilling for oil in a hugely sensitive area, the environmental group said.
The activists set off before dawn in inflatables launched by Greenpeace mothership the Arctic Sunrise and headed towards Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Pechora Sea, Greenpeace said in a statement.
The Russian coast guard arrested two activists but two others managed to attach themselves to the platform with ropes, defying freezing cold water hosed down on them from the platform.
Greenpeace said that Gazprom intends to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform in 2014, raising the risk of an oil spill in an area with three nature reserves that is home to polar bears, walruses and rare seabirds.
"This rusty oil platform is an Arctic disaster waiting to happen," said Greenpeace activist Sini Saarela in a statement.
The world's largest gas firm, Gazprom has expanded its oil production operations in recent years and describes the Prirazlomnoye oil field as an essential element of its oil business development strategy.
Russian and foreign environmentalists regularly accuse Gazprom and other big Russian energy firms of turning a blind eye to ecological concerns as they seek to find energy resources in ever more remote locations.
However the Russian energy firms insist they fully adhere to environmental regulations during exploration and production operations.