Russian authorities have issued exit visas to 14 of the 30 Greenpeace members, arrested and detained more than two months ago, a move that will allow them to leave the country.
It comes after charges were dropped against them over a protest outside an Arctic oil rig.
The first of the activists left Russia on Thursday after the visas were issued and the rest are expected to get clearance to leave by Friday.
Soviet-born Swedish activist Dima Litvinov crossed the Finnish border after receiving an exit stamp in his passport.
“Now I’m going home to my bed, my wife, my kids and my life,” Dima said in a statement.
“I’m leaving Russia feeling like we won something here.”
Russia’s treatment of the 30 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.
The “Arctic 30” were arrested in September following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic and spent two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.
Hooliganism charges against the crew were later dropped after Russia’s parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin’s to assuage the criticism of Russia’s human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.