A Russian Antarctic ship docks in South Africa as green groups protest

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 28 (Reuters) – A Russian research vessel prospecting for oil and natural gas in Antarctica docked in South Africa on Saturday after green activists protested that its operations in the region violated a treaty that included the Mineral exploration prohibited.

Several members of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion held banners reading “Hands off Antarctica” as the polar explorer ship Akademik Alexander Karpinsky arrived in Cape Town harbor as scheduled in the morning.

Earlier this week, several dozen Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion protesters demonstrated at the port, saying the ship’s seismic surveys in Antarctica posed a threat to marine life in the region and violated an international 1958 agreement.

An amendment to the 1998 55-nation Antarctic Treaty, signed by both Russia and South Africa, bans all mineral exploration and extraction in the region.

RosGeo, the Russian state-owned exploration company that runs Akademik Alexander Karpinsky, says it has been conducting research in Russia’s designated part of Antarctica since 1970 to search for hydrocarbons.

According to RosGeo’s website, the designated area’s hydrocarbon potential is estimated at about 70 billion tons.

RosGeo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Extinction Rebellion representative Cassie Goodman told Reuters that the South African government was complicit in environmental damage by allowing the Russian ship to dock.

South Africa’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government maintains friendly relations with Russia. South Africa says it is impartial in the Ukraine conflict and has abstained from voting on UN resolutions on the war.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited South Africa, and the two countries, along with China, will conduct a joint military exercise on the African nation’s east coast between February 17 and 27.

Reporting by Promit Mukherjee Editing by Helen Popper

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