Paul McCartney is calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Greenpeace activists whom Russian authorities detained in September. In a letter McCartney posted on his website, the singer assure Putin that Greenpeace is not anti-Russian and that the 28 activists arrested while staging a protest at a Russian oil-drilling platform in the Arctic Ocean were not working at the behest of western governments.
"In my experience they tend to annoy every government! And they never take money from any government or corporation anywhere in the world," McCartney wrote in a letter that opens informally with, "Dear Vladimir."
Russian authorities initially charged the protesters, and two journalists who were with them, with piracy and hooliganism, though the piracy charges have since been dropped. The 30 people arrested still face a maximum of seven years in prison on the hooliganism charge. Two days ago, the arrestees were transferred to prisons in St. Petersburg.
McCartney's letter, dated October 14th, also underscores that the protesters "don't think they are above the law." He asks, "They say they are willing to answer for what they actually did, so could there be a way out of this, one that benefits everybody?" McCartney acknowledges that the presidency and Russian government are separate but asks Putin to consider weighing in on the matter.
The former Beatle references the band's "Back in the U.S.S.R." in his letter. "That song had one of my favorite Beatles lines in it: 'Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it's good to be back home.' Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?"
Before signing off, he requests a meeting with Putin "when our schedules allow."
The musician and recent Rolling Stone cover subject is not the first public figure to inquire about the Greenpeace arrests. Eleven Nobel Prize laureates also wrote a joint letter to Putin in October, protesting the piracy charges, which would have carried a maximum of 15 years in prison. Their inquiry was not cited as a reason those charges were dropped.
In a preface to his letter, McCartney wrote that he had not yet heard from Putin, but the Russian ambassador replied by saying the situation is "not properly represented in the world media." The former Beatle added that he would love for the arrestees to be home in time for Christmas.