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Greenpeace Activists Board Ship

July 5, 2000

TOYAMA, Japan (AP) _ Six Greenpeace activists who boarded a Russian freighter and chained themselves to its cargo of wood to protest illegal logging agreed Wednesday to get off the ship _ so long as journalists were allowed to get on.

``We feel we’ve accomplished our aim to some extent,″ Greenpeace spokeswoman Mikiko Fukuda said of the group _ three Russians, one Japanese, one Israeli and one Briton.

After boarding the boat Byisk Tuesday in Toyama, 160 miles northwest of Tokyo, the activists had said they would stay there until Japan promised to reduce imports of timber illegally cut from ancient forests.

Earlier British Greenpeace activist Michelle Sheather was hooked to the logs and said by cellular phone that the group ``was determined to stay on board this Russian ship until we get more results ... Our goal is for Japan to say it will not accept any more illegal logging imports.″

Japan’s central government and the Russian Embassy refused to comment on the standoff. Japanese Coast Guard officials who boarded the Byisk did not try to unchain the activists, Sheather said.

Alex Demanchuk, a Russian crew member of the Byisk, shrugged off Greenpeace’s attacks on his vessel. ``It was play,″ he said. ``They were pirates.″

Alongside the Byisk was a Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, which the activists had used to follow the Russian ship since it left the Russian Far East on Sunday with a large cargo of timber.

On Monday and Tuesday, the activists jumped aboard the 2,360-ton Byisk in international waters, and Russian crewmen threw them back into the Sea of Japan, Sheather said. No one was seriously injured and a new group boarded Tuesday night after the Toyama arrived in port, she said.

Sheather said Greenpeace began following the Russian ship after investigating logging being done in Primorsky, a region near the Russian, Chinese and North Korean borders.

She said loggers routinely violate Russian forestry laws by operating without required permits or with forged ones as they cut down oak, ash, Korean pine and spruce trees in ancient forests. She said at least 20 percent of the lumber that is exported from the region was illegally chopped down.

The Toyama port relies heavily on trade with Russia. Often, Russian ships that deliver wood there return home carrying exported secondhand Japanese cars.