MOSCOW, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Six more of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested in a protest over Arctic oil drilling left Russia on Friday after being granted an amnesty, the environmental group said.
The departure of the five Britons and one Canadian follows that of the first of the “Arctic 30” to leave Russia on Thursday. All 26 non-Russian activists have now obtained clearance to leave, Greenpeace said.
“It’s over. We’re finally, truly free,” said Alex Harris, 27, from Devon in Britain.
“It feels like the moment I’ve been waiting for, and my family too, but also for millions of people around the world who have worked for this,” she said in a statement.
Russia’s treatment of the activists from 18 countries - who spent two months in detention and faced hooliganism charges punishable by seven years in jail - had drawn heavy criticism from Western nations and celebrities.
Criminal charges were dropped under an amnesty earlier this month which critics say was a move by President Vladimir Putin timed to improve Russia’s image ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
Russia says activists endangered lives and property at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya offshore platform. Greenpeace said the boarding of its icebreaker, Arctic Sunrise, was illegal and that its activists had protested peacefully.
Among the others due to leave Russia on Friday was the ship’s captain, Peter Willcox, the group said.