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On Thursday, the last Greenpeace activist still in custody, from the thirty arrested back in September, was granted bail by a Russian court.
Colin Russell, from Australia, was a crew member aboard the Arctic Sunrise, the Greenpeace ship that carried protestors to the Prirazlomnava platform in the Arctic waters, when all aboard were arrested by the Russian coast guard after some attempted to scale the rig as part of a demonstration against Arctic drilling and exploration.
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Once a 2 million rouble ($60,000) bail is paid, Russell will be released from pre-trial custody; the other 29 have already been released. Russell’s first request for bail was denied earlier in the month, but his appeal was successful.
All thirty arrested from the ship have been charged with hooliganism, a crime that carries a maximum seven year prison sentence. The charges are being heavily criticised by Western nations, and many view them as an attempt to cow any future dissidents by President Vladimir Putin, and ensure less resistance in the future.
Reuters reports that whilst all have been released on bail, the protestors, who are made up of 18 different nationalities, have not been allowed to leave Russia. It is unknown whether or not they may be granted special leave to return home to their families for Christmas.
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Ben Ayliffe, a campaigner with Greenpeace Arctic, said that “none of us will truly be celebrating until they've been allowed to return home and the charges against them have been dropped.”
Putin has previously stated that the Arctic is a priority region for Russia as it looks to explore for oil and gas fields in the region, hoping that large discoveries will boost the country’s production output. The Prirazlomnava platform is Russia’s first offshore rig in the Arctic, and therefore protected all the more rigorously.
Greenpeace has always claimed that the Russian’s have been heavy handed in their treatment of, and attitude towards, the 30 protestors who were merely engaging in a peaceful attempt to attract attention to the potential damage that oil and gas exploration in the Arctic could have.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com