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Family of Chipping Norton Greenpeace activist held in Russia fears for his future
STEVE Ball’s brother Phil was wearing lots of warm clothing when he got dropped off at a bus stop to go on a three-week trip.
But he would not reveal which cold climate he was heading for.
Days later, Mr Ball got the shock of his life when he discovered Phil was one of the Greenpeace protesters being held in Russia on piracy charges.
MrBall has now told how his younger brother, one of the ‘Arctic 30’, is trying to stay strong, despite facing 15 years in a Russian jail.
Father-of-three Phil, 42, from Chipping Norton, was among 28 activists and two journalists aboard the Greenpeace boat Arctic Sunrise, who were detained at gunpoint by Russian authorities after allegedly trying to seize an oil platform on September 18.
The 30, who hail from 18 nations, have appeared in Murmansk’s Lenin district court but have been refused bail and have been detained for two months in the city, pending trial.
If convicted of piracy they could face up to 15 years in one of Russia’s notorious jails.
Mr Ball, 44, also from Chipping Norton, said: “I took Phil to Oxford bus station about 10 days before his arrest.
“He had packed for cold weather and was boarding a bus to London, but I did not know where he was going.
“Then I was getting ready for work and listening to the radio when they said Greenpeace protesters had been held in the Arctic and straight away I thought ‘Oh my God that’s my brother’.
“I learned more about the ‘armed intervention’ and saw coverage of a pistol being pointed down a camera lens and realised that gun could be pointing at him.”
His incarcerated brother is a nature photographer and film maker who has been credited on David Attenborough films.
A father to sons aged eight and seven and a three-year-old daughter, the Greenpeace activitst grew up in Chipping Norton, attended The Marlborough School in Woodstock and has been a Greenpeace member since 2007.
His brother, a school science technician who also lives in Chipping Norton, said: “Phil’s partner has received a couple of letters since he was held and I received my first – which is actually a photograph of a four-page, handwritten letter to me from him, which has come through Greenpeace a couple of days ago.
“While Phil seemed quite ‘down’ in his earliest letters, he seemed stronger in this one to me and is very keen we don’t just get them back and forget why they have all went out there – to highlight the damage which is being wreaked on the Arctic.
“He also talks about the terrible food and very basic conditions and says he is allowed out once a day for an hour to exercise alone in a yard.
“He runs about as much as he can in that time and says that if he is lucky, he might shout and hear a shout back from another prisoner.”
MrBall is in a cell with two Russian men who can only speak a few words of English.
“He talks of desperately missing cuddling his little girl and says the strongest thing keeping him going is the knowledge of the support from outside,” added Mr Ball.
Ingrid Royale from Oxford Greenpeace said: “Phil cares passionately about the environment and his family and it is very sad that he has been detained. We just want him home safely.”
Mr Ball added: “Our mum, Ruth Ball has visited the Foreign Office with Phil’s partner, and we are being kept up to speed.”
- The family is urging Oxford Mail readers to email support for the Arctic 30 to Russian embassies using the website greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/arctic-impacts/free-our-activists/
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