A welcome Christmas present for Swiss Greenpeace activist Marco Weber: along with all but one of the members of the so-called “Arctic 30” group, he was informed on Wednesday that all charges against them are being dropped.
The only remaining hurdle for the foreign activists is getting permission to leave the country. Reporting the news, Greenpeace said they had already applied for exit visas.
A Greenpeace spokesman in St Petersburg confirmed to Swiss public radio that they were certain Weber would soon be able to leave, although it was not possible to give a precise date.
The only crew member whose case has not yet been officially closed comes from Italy: the delay is the result of the lack of an interpreter.
December 25 is a normal working day in Russia, since the Orthodox church follows the Julian calendar and will mark Christmas on January 7. However, the whole of the first week of January is a holiday.
The group was detained in September when they were protesting against Russian preparations to drill for oil in the Arctic. They were initially held in the northern city of Murmansk accused of piracy, but were subsequently transferred to St Petersburg. The charges were downgraded to hooliganism, which carries a maximum term of seven years. The group were later released on bail but were unable to leave the country.
The Russian parliament approved an amnesty for thousands of prisoners last week.
On December 20 the oil giant Gazprom announced that oil had started flowing at its Prirazlomnaya drilling rig, the focus of the Greenpeace protest, in the Pechora Sea.
swissinfo.ch and agencies