UK & World News

  • 27 December 2013, 7:09

First Freed Greenpeace Activist Leaves Russia

The first of 30 people arrested during a protest near an Arctic oil rig has left Russia after the criminal case against them was dropped.

DimaLitvinovtook a train to Helsinki from St Petersburg's Finlyandskiy train station and spoke to Sky News shortly after crossing the border to Finland.

He said it was "fantastic" to be free and that he had "no regrets" about the actions that landed the group with two months in detention and facing hooliganism charges punishable by seven years in jail.

He told Sky News: "No I don't regret them for a moment, it was an absolutely necessary step to take.

"We need to bring attention to the grave risk that we're facing because of the actions of oil companies and their puppet regimes that they control that are a threat to the whole planet and the fragile Arctic region."

He said the protest had succeeded in bringing the issue of Arctic oil exploration to the world's attention and said Russia's claims that the activists had endangered lives and property were "nonsense".

He said: "The authorities have said all sorts of things - that we were in the pay of the CIA, that we were in the pay of other oil companies. The protest was completely peaceful ... the same thing Greenpeace has done historically over decades.

"The action we faced was a complete over-reaction and continued with the complete murder of justice. We were accused of piracy, we were told we would be going to prison for 10 to 15 years ... and even now when I read the papers of the amnesty, I am being told that I am a criminal.

"I don't need an amnesty, what I need is an apology and perhaps a medal."

Thirteen others have also received the stamp which allows them to leave Russia, Greenpeace said, with rest of the "Arctic 30" expected to go through the process on Friday.

The treatment meted out to the 30 activists from 18 countries drew heavy criticism from Western nations and celebrities, but Russia says they posed a threat with the protest at the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea.

Their amnesty has removed an irritant in Moscow's relations with the West in what Kremlin critics say is a move timed to improve Russia's image ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

Anthony Perrett, 32, from Newport, South Wales, was the first to be issued with an exit visa after being held in jail with the others for two months.

He said in a statement: "This was the final step. I'll be leaving for home in Wales as soon as possible now, extremely proud of what I did three months ago.

"We took peaceful action to defend a part of the world that is the heartbeat of our climate.

"The Arctic is a measure of our planet's health and I refuse to stay silent as the oil companies line up to profit from its destruction.

"Together we are saying to the oil companies that the Arctic is off-limits and that we must save this beautiful region for future generations."

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