Who didn’t see this coming?  Greenpeace activists attempted to return to a Russian oil rig in the Arctic last month where they had earlier staged a protest occupation, and found the Russians a little more prepared.  They have since been held without charges in a Russian jail, and today Interfax reports that they may spend the next 15 years cooling their heels if found guilty of piracy:

Greenpeace activists detained in Russia for an open-sea protest against Arctic oil drilling will on Wednesday be formally charged with piracy, the Interfax news agency said, citing an unnamed source.

If found guilty, the 30 detained activists could face a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail.

“They will be charged according to Section 3 of the Criminal Code’s Article 227 (piracy committed by an organised group,” Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying on Tuesday.

AFP reports that the protesters are “in shock” over being detained by “a democratic state”:

All but four of the activists are non-Russians from countries including Britain, the United States, Finland and Argentina.

Russia has jailed the activists from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise protest ship without charge pending an investigation into alleged piracy, after several scaled a state-owned oil rig on September 18.

The activists have complained of cold cells and a lack of suitable clothing and food, said Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoners’ rights watchdog.

“Many of them are in a state close to shock,” she told AFP after visiting the prisoners. “They had never expected that they would face such consequences for their peaceful protest in a democratic state.”

I think I see the disconnect here.  If Greenpeace expected the authoritarian Russian government to react in a similar manner as Western democracies, well, they simply haven’t done their homework.  This is the same government that has imprisoned a female punk-rock band to a two-year sentence for criticizing Vladimir Putin. Their hunger strike ended today, by the way, with no concessions from the Kremlin:

The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service says that an imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot is ending her hunger strike nine days after it began.

The service told the state news agency ITAR-Tass that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was in stable health after ending the hunger strike on Wednesday. An opposition leader who said he had spoken with Tolokonnikova also tweeted that she was ending the strike.

Interfering with Gazprom’s operations is a more serious manner than insulting Putin. Greenpeace had better hope that their home countries can cut a deal with Russia to get them deported soon, or else it might be a very long protest. Perhaps they’ll learn a lesson about the qualitative differences between Western democracies and the rest of the world, too.