Tassie Greenpeace worker writes of life in Russian detention

Press release - 3 November, 2013
Sydney: 3 November 2013 - The first personal letters from 59 year old Tasmanian Colin Russell from Tasmania to his wife Christine Russell and daughter Madeleine in Woodbridge have been publicly released by Greenpeace Australia. The letters describe detention in Murmansk, while displaying Colin's trademark laconic humour (Sunday Telegraph today, text of letters follow, photo of Colin Russell attached).

In latest developments the 28 Greenpeace campaigners and two freelance journalists, including Alexandra Harris who lives in Manly and Jon Beauchamp who lives in Adelaide, are being moved from Murmansk to St Petersburg. Piracy charges carrying a 15 years maximum sentence remain, despite additional formal charges of hooliganism being laid last week.

Reece Turner Senior Greenpeace Campaigner said today, "I've spent a week on a ship with Col in New Zealand and his classic Aussie humour shines in these letters as well as his love for his family, his mates and the Arctic Sunrise ship seized by Russian authorities.

"We urge Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to do all that she can to make sure there isn't an empty seat at the Russell family table this Christmas."

On September 18, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise took peaceful action at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform to stop it from producing the world’s first oil from icy Arctic waters. 

For more information and comment contact:  Alison Orme Media and Communications Greenpeace Sydney  Tel: 0432 332 104  

Letter 1 

Hey my darlings, 

Well here goes another Sunday and I am still banged up – had the first hint of how brutal the weather will get this morning when the window blew open and a bit of powder snow rushed in – I was still half asleep and rose to see it blow halfway into the room. I immediately though of the ship [Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise] for some reason, thinking that she’s rafted up alongside another ship and I reckon fighting with all her might to get free – a bit like us – the now well-known Arctic30.

I am so over hip hop music. The kid I am in here with keeps it on all the time and I have to ask him to turn it down. It is just bloody depressing - all about violence without any change for one song to the next.

One of the supporters is sending in some Sudoku for us to do which is great. I do them early morning then sleep to lunch then exercise then eat then read a bit.

So the first month of the 2 month detention is up by the 24th so I say next week I am halfway. The feeling is that we will at least do that time so I am resigned to it and anything else than will be a bonus.

We are a real pain to the jail here and they have made concessions I think to make sure we are treated well. Every day I am asked if I have any problem which I am sure the locals would never see. 

I have a form to fill out every Sunday if there are problems and I am going to complain about the bed. It is a bugger with a very thin mattress.

I lose feeling in my bony old bum where the iron bars cut in. It is just everything here is made to be uncomfortable. They don’t give you anything at all. I am OK with it but there would be outrage if this was at home. I do not want to think of what happens if you are convicted. God knows what they do with the real crims.

OK my lovelies. It’s all a dream really.

Love you, Col/Dad xxxxoooxo

Letter 2 

Hi my darlings

From 'Russia with love' I could say but that line has probably been used already?

I am well enough considering where I am. Let me tell you it is not the Murmansk Hilton that is for sure! I am in a cell 8.5 steps x 2.5 steps. Painted a finer shade of nicotine. It is not so bad now I have some luxuries like a water boiler and a bath towel. Oh not to mention a spare pair of socks and undies and a pair of cossack track dacks. I am the talk of the town when I go for walks on the promenade deck…shame there are no windows.

I can see our wee house on the hill surrounded now with all the Spring blossoms. George [the family Labrador] will be taking count of all the apples in readiness for the autumn apple chasing Olympics. I think of the boy a lot and miss him.

I think it will be my 3 months up on Monday so then I am on overtime I guess. They assure me that my salary will still be paid so you could say it's easy money while I am lying around here.

I guess we might have to have a small party when I get home.

For some reason I thought of Mrs [name removed for privacy]____ today and would like you to send her my regards. God she must be 90 now and I know _____[my sister] and kids would be concerned so again I am thinking of them as well.

I think there will be some work to get the old girl [the Arctic Sunrise ship] going again. She sits alone with no humdrum on the mess decks. It's very sad. I hope that we can sail her home soon but things move slow. The 24th of November [court orders are that the Arctic 30 could be detained up until at least November 24 while allegations against them are investigated by authorities] is the date I would think I may see daylight but nothing is sure.

If we have time to take a holiday I think I am up for it. I reckon a quiet place maybe - some sun, good food and just us.

Well that's my lot for this letter.

Love you guys forever.


Xxxxx on the noses