Greenpeace challenges Gazprom, prevents oil production at Prirazlomnaya field, 2012


To prevent offshore Arctic oil drilling at the Prirazlomnaya oil field in order to inhibit the escalation of climate change and melting of Arctic sea ice.

Time period

24 August, 2012 to 21 September, 2012



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Prirazlomnaya is an offshore oil rig in the Arctic Circle
Jump to case narrative


Kumi Naidoo


Greenpeace national offices worldwide

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Actors Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz


Gazprom, Russian Government

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Water canons shot at activists on oil rig, intentional efforts made to destroy Greenpeace boats and throw activists into the sea.





Group characterization

Greenpeace activists
concerned environmentalists worldwide

Groups in 1st Segment

Greenpeace activists
concerned environmentalists worldwide

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Celebrity endorsements for Greenpeace's actions came at unknown intervals throughout the segments.

Segment Length

5 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Greenpeace succeeded in preventing drilling at the Prirazlomnaya field. If Greenpeace had not intervened this drilling would have begun. This is a success and should be recognized, though it is unclear if Greenpeace will be able to prevent drilling at Prirazlomnaya field indefinitely.

Database Narrative

Gazprom, Russia’s largest oil company, intended to become the first company
to drill Arctic oil in the summer of 2012.  Gazprom planned to use their aging Prirazlomnaya
oil platform to extract oil deposits made newly available with the retreat of
Arctic ice on the Pechora Sea.  As a part
of their “Save the Arctic Initiative” Greenpeace targeted Gazprom in an intense
campaign to stop the beginning of Arctic oil drilling.

On 14 August 2012 Greenpeace Russia announced that the Russian Ministry
of Emergency confirmed that the oil spill response plan issued to the
Prirazlomnaya oil platform had expired, making any oil drilling at the cite
illegal under Russian law.  At an unknown
time following this announcement, a number of previously trained Greenpeace
activists discreetly boarded the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and departed for
the Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

At 4am 24 August 2012 six Greenpeace activists, including Executive
Director Kumi Naidoo, departed the Arctic Sunrise on three inflatable dories and
scaled the oil platform.  For five days
the activists occupied the platform, facing Gazprom’s violent attempts to disperse
them.  Activists were blasted with water cannons,
and multiple attempts were made to force activists into the sea.  According to Greenpeace reporting, the
activists only backed down on the fifth day because the last remaining dory was
pulled vertically by a Gazprom cable, intentionally dumping all activists into the
ocean below.

Coverage of the activist’s occupation of the oil rig spread quickly through
international news sources, as well as online through social media.  Greenpeace organized online letter writing
campaigns as well as petitions.  Greenpeace’s
“Save the Arctic” initiative used the campaign against Gazprom as a launching
point to gain signatures directed to various heads of state asking for a commitment
to forbid Arctic drilling.  Over 1.7 million
signatures were collected, including celebrity endorsements from the likes of
Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz. 

Meanwhile, the campaign against Gazprom specifically continued to
escalate.  Greenpeace was able to charge
Gazprom in court for attempting to drill with an expired oil spill
permit.  In early September Greenpeace activists
in Moscow dressed as Polar Bears and protested outside Gazprom’s headquarters.  Some activists chained themselves to fences, and police arrested some of these campaigners.  Simultaneously,
activists in Germany constructed a leaky oil derrick outside Gazprom offices in
Berlin.  Greenpeace distributed photos
from these actions widely, keeping the issue in international news media.

Gazprom attempted to quickly resume drilling, but Greenpeace pressure in
the courts and media forced the company to make a statement on 21 September
2012 that it would be unable to resume drilling until the company could “ensure
complete safety.”

At the time of writing this entry, Gazprom has been forced to partner
with Dutch Shell in order to continue to pursue its desire for Arctic oil.  The Prirazlomnaya oil platform is not
drilling Arctic oil.


The use of interventionist, small sea vessel obstruction tactics is clearly influenced by Greenpeace's original 1975 anti-whaling campaigns (1). This campaign will likely influence future anti-Arctic drilling campaigns, though none are yet known (2).


Andrew. "LIVE BLOG: New Action to Stop Russian Oil Giant Gazprom's Oil Platform in the Arctic." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 27 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

Ayliffe, Ben. "Polar Bears Take Action against Gazprom's Arctic Plans." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

Gerken, James. "Gazprom's Arctic Drilling Delayed Again." The Huffington Post., 21 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

"Greenpeace Activists Board Gazprom Arctic Oil Platform." YouTube. Greenpeace Update, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

"Greenpeace Protest Gazprom Arctic Offshore Drilling." Euronews. Euronews, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

"Polar Protest: Greenpeace Arctic Drilling Demo Ends in Arrests - RT News." Polar Protest: Greenpeace Arctic Drilling Demo Ends in Arrests - RT News. TV-Novosti, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

Wilson, Jessica. "Greenpeace Uncovers Gazprom's Expired Oil Spill Response Plan." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <>.

Additional Notes

Although Greenpeace advertised this campaign within their "Save the Arctic" initiative, it is crucial to recognize that "Save the Arctic" alone is not a campaign. "Save the Arctic" is a collection of individual campaigns targeting heads of state as well as oil companies. The challenge to Gazprom detailed here is one of these specific campaigns.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Pauline Blount, 22/04/2013