The last of the 26 foreign Greenpeace activists who were detained after an Arctic protest has flown out of Russia, the group announced, finally ending a saga that had caused global concern.
Polish national Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 37, flew out from Saint Petersburg to Warsaw, Greenpeace said in a statement on Sunday, following 25 other foreign activists who had all left by Saturday.
Thirty activists, including four Russians, were detained in September over the protest against oil drilling by Russian energy giant Gazprom before being bailed and then benefiting from a Kremlin-backed amnesty.
They were initially arrested when the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise was seized by Russian security forces who winched down from a helicopter in a commando-style operation.
They were first held in the Arctic Circle city of Murmansk and then transferred to Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg.
They were charged with piracy although this was later changed to hooliganism.
It was courts in Saint Petersburg that in November ordered the release of all 30 on bail after more than two months in detention.
Their departure from Saint Petersburg was made possible by the Kremlin-backed amnesty, which came after concerns raised by EU states including Britain and Germany over the charges against them.
The Arctic Sunrise ship remains under Russian control in Murmansk and Greenpeace have made clear that it wants its vessel back.
“I am very happy to be going home, but I don’t feel the same for the ship and its future. I am emotionally connected to both the crew and the ship and for me the case will be over when the ship is back in Amsterdam,” Greenpeace quoted Dziemianczuk as saying before leaving Russia.
“This was only a great beginning to our Arctic campaign,” he added.