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Tribunal: Russia must pay damages for seizing protest ship

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international tribunal has ordered Russia to pay damages and costs of nearly 5.4 million euros ($6.2 million) to the Netherlands for unlawfully seizing a Greenpeace ship protesting at an oil platform in Arctic waters.

The environmental organization and the Dutch government both welcomed Tuesday's announcement as a clear signal of support for the freedom of expression.

"The road to justice can be long but today's award emphatically upholds international law and the right to peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic - and at sea worldwide," said Jasper Teulings, Greenpeace International's General Counsel.

"The rulings make clear that you can't just board ships in international waters and arrest those on board," Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders said. "The Arctic Sunrise was exercising the right to demonstrate. The rulings contribute to the development of international law, particularly the laws of the sea and freedom of expression."

The Arctic Sunrise, sailing under a Dutch flag, was seized by Russian authorities in September 2013 during a protest against an offshore oil platform. The 30 people on board, who became known as the Arctic 30, were arrested and detained for months before eventually being released shortly before the Sochi Olympics.

The tribunal ruled two years ago that the seizure breached an international treaty regulating the laws of the sea and then set about assessing the damages Russia should pay. Russia didn't take part in the case.

Koenders called on Moscow to respect the ruling and pay up, adding that the Dutch government would add interest until Russia pays the damages.

The order to Russia included compensation for nearly 1.7 million euros ($2 million) for damage to the Arctic Sunrise and just over 3 million euros ($3.5 million) in compensation for material and non-material damages linked to the treatment of the Arctic 30.

There was no immediate reaction from Russia.

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