Detained Greenpeace Activists Leave Russia After Receiving Amnesty
Greenpeace International activist Captain Peter Willcox of the U.S. leaves the departure lounge at St. Petersburg airport, St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 27, 2013.
Greenpeace activists Iain Rogers (L), Anthony Perrett (2nd L), Alexandra Harris (2nd R), Phillip Ball (R) and video cameraman Kieron Bryan (C) pose for photographers after arriving at St. Pancras station in central London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Greenpeace employee Daphane Christelis (L) greets Greenpeace activist Phillip Ball as he arrives at St. Pancras station in central London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Anthony Perrett, an activist and one of the 30 Greenpeace crew arrested in the Russian Arctic, talks to the media after he arrives back in London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Greenpeace International activist Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands arrives at St. Petersburg airport to catch a flight after receiving her exit visa from the Federal Migration Service, St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 27, 2013.
Video cameraman Kieron Bryan (2nd R) poses for a photograph with his mother Ann (2nd L), father Andy (L) and brother Russel after arriving at St. Pancras station in central London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Greenpeace activist Alexandra Harris, who was one of the 30 crew arrested by Russian authorities, speaks to the media after arriving in London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Video cameraman Kieron Bryan hugs his mother Ann after arriving at St. Pancras station in central London, England, Dec. 27, 2013.
Greenpeace International activist Mannes Ubels of Netherlands celebrates getting permission to leave Russia, near the Federal Migration Service, St.Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26, 2013.
Russia Releases Greenpeace Activists
Six Greenpeace activists‒ five Britons and one Canadian ‒have left Russia after being granted amnesty on charges of hooliganism.
The activists left Russia on Friday, after more than two months in detention in connection with a September protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic Sea.
"It's over," Briton Alex Harris told reporters. "We're finally, truly free."
The first of the 30 people detained in that September 19 protest was released Thursday. Swedish citizen Dima Litvinov said after his release that he did not regret speaking out or being arrested.
The rest of the activists are set to be released from detention in St. Petersburg in the coming days. Russia dropped charges against the activists earlier this week under heavy pressure from Western nations.
Critics say dropping the charges is an attempt by Russia to improve its public image ahead of the winter Olympic Games to be held in February in the Russian resort city of Sochi.
The Russian government has released a number of high-profile prisoners in the past week, including oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the last two jailed members of the Pussy Riot band.
Greenpeace says crew members of its ship Arctic Sunrise had been peacefully protesting at a Russian oil rig when they were arrested. The protest was aimed at drawing attention to the environmental threat of oil drilling.
The 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists were initially charged with piracy. The charges were later downgraded to hooliganism, which carries a potential 7-year prison sentence.
"Thanks for having us, you know, St. Petersburg is a beautiful, wonderful city," said released activist Briton Anthony Perrett. "We are still very much concerned about invasive drilling in the Arctic. the campaign won't stop, we'll take a breather, but the ultimate goal is to stop drilling in the Arctic, so we are going to carry on.''