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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rainbow Warriors Speak and Retreat




TOYAMA, Japan -- After shackling themselves overnight to a cargo of timber following a three-day high seas chase, Greenpeace activists left a Russian freighter Wednesday claiming they had raised awareness of the depletion of protected forests ahead of this month's Group of Eight summit.


The standoff with Japanese authorities in this sooty, industrial port ended when the coast guard allowed journalists to meet the six environmentalists who had chained themselves to a pile of logs on the rickety cargo ship Biisk.


Greenpeace, which claimed that a large proportion of the Biisk's timber was cut illegally in Russia's Far East, had initially demanded guarantees that Japan would move against illegal wood imports.


But the activists agreed to leave the harbor on their flagship Rainbow Warrior, docked next to the Biisk, after the Japanese government spoke to Greenpeace activists in Tokyo and journalists were let through a cordon keeping them away from the dock.


"Very few people were aware that there was this illegal trade with Japan,'' said Greenpeace official Dave Roberts, who was among those fettered to the logs. "We don't feel that getting people arrested at this stage is going to further ? dialogue.''


The standoff with Japanese authorities ended peacefully. But the voyage to Toyama had been fraught with clashes.


After the Biisk left Russia on Sunday, activists on the Rainbow Warrior jumped aboard the Russian ship in international waters. Crewmen threw them back into the Sea of Japan.


Then, five Greenpeace activists boarded the Biisk on Monday and occupied the logs stacked high on the deck until the ship agreed to return to the Plastun port in the Primorye region.


Later, when the Russian ship reversed course and again sailed for Japan, the Rainbow Warrior resumed its pursuit, and on Tuesday eight activists briefly boarded the ship before being thrown off it by crewmen using grappling hooks and high-powered hoses.


Alex Demanchuk, a member of the crew, shrugged off the violence. "It was play,'' he said. "They were pirates.''


He said Japan was to blame if illegal timber made it to the country's shores. "Big money, big problem,'' he said, grinning and rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.


Greenpeace had urged the G-8, which will hold a summit in Japan from July 21 to 23, to enforce a program it adopted three years ago to stop unlawful lumbering.


Japan's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the nation planned to put forestry issues, including illegal logging, on the G-8 agenda, according to Greenpeace.


But Foreign Ministry official Tetsuji Miyamoto said he had only reiterated the government's stance that environmental issues were scheduled to be addressed at the summit.