New Zealand Prime Minister John Key met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia, and raised the issue of piracy charges of Kiwi Greenpeace activities who were detained in Russia. The prime minister asked the Russian president if he was aware of the New Zealanders' arrest in Russia when they protested on an Arctic oil platform along with other Greenpeace members.
It was quite clear that Mr Putin was "absolutely aware of it." Mr Putin also knows two of them are Kiwis and that he has talked with New Zealand's foreign minister. The Russian president also assured Prime Minister John Key that the case will go through the appropriate process in the Russian judicial system.
During the brief meeting with Mr Putin, Mr Key did not know for certain what the Greenpeace protesters will ultimately be charged with but Mr Putin's assurance was all he had.
The 30 Greenpeace protesters are currently facing charges of piracy and may serve 15 years in prison if found guilty. Two Kiwis, David Haussman and Jonathan Beuachamp, are among those who were arrested.
A regional court in Murmansk has denied bail to three Russian Greenpeace members, including Denis Sinyakov, a former photographer for AFP and Reuters. According to Greenpeace spokesman Andrei Allakhverdov and the lawyers of the detainees, the judge refused to release Yekaterina Zaspa, the ship's doctor. Greenpeace also said the remaining crew members of the ship will also have bail hearings later on in the week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Key is expected to chair crucial talks in free trade during the APEC leaders' summit. Mr Key will supervise a meeting of nations who want to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership. While trade is supposed to be the main focus of APEC, Prime Minister Key used the formal leaders' meeting to campaign for New Zealand to get on board the United Nations Security Council.
He asked some world leaders to help New Zealand in making the right connections. Although it was not part of his agenda, it was Mr Key who made a beeline for the Russian president at the first chance available to him.
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