Wife of Polish Greenpeace activist visits husband in Russian jail | Digital Journal

By Ted Lipien

Published November 7, 2013 by Digital Journal

Murmansk – Wife of Polish Greenpeace activist was allowed a short visit with her husband in a Russian jail. Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk told Polish TV that Tomasz Dziemianczuk does not regret having taken part in a peaceful pro-environmental protest.

Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk saw her husband Tomasz Dziemianczuk Wednesday in a Russian jail in Murmansk where he is being held with more than two dozen other Greenpeace activists arrested six weeks ago during an attempt to stage a protest at a Russian oil platform in the Arctic. Russian authorities allowed the young couple to talk by phone through a glass partition.

Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk told Polish TV that physical conditions in the jail are good, but described her husband’s imprisonment as harsh on him and other Greenpeace activists. He told her that for his own mental health he convinced himself that he is in jail to improve his Russian language skills. 

Tomasz Dziemianczuk, an environmentalist with a Masters Degree in Cultural Management from the Warsaw School of Economics, joined Greenpeace when an office opened in Poland in 2004. He is an experienced climber and boat pilot who has been involved in many protests, including scaling Mt Fuji in Japan, 2012, to protest against nuclear energy.

Russian media reported that jailed Greenpeace activists may be moved from Murmansk to St. Petersburg, but Bajorek-Dziemianczuk did not receive any official assurances that such a transfer will take place. She said that the weather, short days and shortage of light in Murmansk at this time of year are depressing. 

Polish TV reporter Arleta Bojke speculated that while conditions of detention in St. Petersburg may represent an improvement, the transfer, if it occurs, may also mean that the Russian authorities are not planning an early release of Greenpeace activists. After numerous international protests, Russian authorities reduced initial charges of piracy against the group to charges of hooliganism, but these can still result in prison terms or in fines. 

A letter reportedly written by Tomasz Dziemianczuk and posted on the Internet appeals to world public opinion not to forget the ecological purpose of the Greenpeace protest action against oil exploration in the Arctic. 

Following a peaceful protest at an oil platform, the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise was boarded by the Russian Coast Guard. Thirty people of various nationalities are now behind bars in Russia. Captain Peter Willcox is an American citizen, as is Dimitri Litvinov, son of famous former Soviet dissident and political prisoner Pavel Litvinov. 

U.S. media, with the notable exception of taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), reported on the plight of the two American Greenpeace activists in a Russian jail. The Washington Post published an op-ed by Dimitri Litvinov’s father, The New York Times interviewed him, and CNN aired an interview with Peter Willcox’s wife. 

While VOA has been criticized for its lack of reporting on the two Americans, media outlets in other countries from which individual jailed activists come continue to report frequently on the plight of their nationals. BBC has posted several interviews with family members of jailed British activists. 

Polish Foreign Ministry has been reportedly very active in trying to get Tomasz Dziemianczuk and other Greenpeace activists released. Media in Poland have published numerous reports on the incident and the jailing of the Greenpeace crew. Polish TV reporter went to Murmansk for the bail hearing for Dziemianczuk. All bail requests were denied. She now reports that Russian authorities have introduced new restrictions on media coverage and are not allowing to film the jail from a distance closer than 50 meters.

The British Foreign Office and the Dutch government are reportedly also very active in this case. The Voice of America has not reported in detail on any U.S. State Department actions on behalf of the two jailed Americans, but it can be assumed that U.S. diplomats are trying to get Willcox, Litvinov and other released from jail. It is not known how energetic these U.S. official efforts are.

Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk said that despite what has happened, her husband does not regret having been part of the protest.

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