The Netherlands has taken Russia to the world's maritime court in order to free 30 crew members of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, charged with piracy.
The 30 were protesting Arctic oil drilling last month.
"The [Dutch] state is asking for the freeing of the detained crew and the release of the Greenpeace ship," before the German-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), a statement said.
"Because the Netherlands find that the ship's release and the freeing of the crew is an urgent matter, it has now decided on this step," it added.
Russian authorities have charged the environmental group's crew members with piracy, which carries a 15-year sentence.
The activists from 18 different countries have been placed in pre-trial detention until late November in the northern Russian city of Murmansk.
Last week, a Murmansk court rejected several bail requests, ignoring a worldwide campaign to have the piracy charges dropped.
The Dutch government said it expected a hearing within the next two to three weeks before the Hamburg-based tribunal. The tribunal is then expected to judge within a month.
Two weeks ago the Netherlands started a juridical procedure aimed at amiably resolving the matter. As Russia has not responded the Dutch are now allowed to ask the court for an urgent procedure.
Requesting ITLOS to indicate provisional measures is an unusual step for a government to take, according to Greenpeace. The goal is to allow the activists to await the setting of their trial date from home.
The Netherlands has never launched a case at the maritime court before and has done so now as the Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged ship. – Sapa, staff reporter