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Russia Releases Greenpeace Activists From Detention

Greenpeace International activists, from left: Philip Ball of the United Kingdom, Sini Saarela of Finland and Alexandra Harris of the United Kingdom show their passports with permissions to leave Russian St.Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26, 2013 (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Six Greenpeace activists - five Britons and one Canadian - have left Russia after being granted amnesty from charges of hooliganism.

The activists left Russia Friday after more than two months in detention, in connection with a September protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic Sea. Briton Alex Harris told reporters "It's over. We're finally, truly free." She said millions of people around the world had worked for the moment when the activists would be released.

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.