Twenty-six of the Arctic 30 (24 Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists) pose in St. Petersburg, in this December 3, 2013 handout from Greenpeace.© REUTERS/ Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters
ST. PETERSBURG, December 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russia began dropping cases on Wednesday against the Greenpeace activists, detained over a September protest staged at a Russian Arctic oil rig, as part of a broad prison amnesty approved by state lawmakers earlier this month.
The St. Petersburg Investigative Committee had formally dismissed charges against at least 16 of the activists by Wednesday afternoon. All 30 are expected to be cleared by the end of the day.
“Amnesty signed. Moonwalked out of the office of the Head of Investigative Committee,” Greenpeace activist and Dutch citizen Faiza Oulahsen tweeted after receiving her pardon. “Had to show off the dance moves I practiced in prison.”
The activists should be able to go home within days once they receive exit visas.
British national Anthony Perrett was the first Greenpeace activist to be pardoned Tuesday under the amnesty, proposed by President Putin in early December to mark the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution.
The so-called Arctic 30, charged initially with piracy but later with hooliganism, were released on bail in November after being behind bars for over two months for protesting oil drilling in the environmentally sensitive Arctic region.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil magnate and once Russia’s richest man, was a surprise beneficiary of the prison amnesty when he was freed by presidential pardon last week after 10 years in jail.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot, were also freed on Monday under the amnesty after serving nearly 21 months of a two-year sentence for hooliganism for performing an anti-Kremlin protest in a Moscow cathedral in 2012.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).