Freedom for Greenpeace activists ‘could ease outcry against Russia’

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Russia has freed three more of the 30 people arrested following a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic two months ago.

They have been granted bail but the charges against them still stand.

Bail already has been granted to 20 people this week, and the bail hearings are continuing. The rulings by judges in St Petersburg could moderate the international criticism of Russia over the case.

Brazilian activist Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel, who was released late on Wednesday, was the first one to walk free. She was followed yesterday by three Russian citizens.

The Brazilian activist’s lawyer, Sergei Golubok, said Maciel was free to move about St Petersburg and was given back her passport, but she “is not going to leave Russia before the situation is cleared up”.

As a Brazilian, Maciel does not need a visa to be in Russia. Many of the other foreign activists, however, would need a visa to remain in Russia legally. It was not clear what arrangements would be made or if they would be allowed to leave the country.

“We don’t know yet if they will be able to leave the country,” said Patric Salize, a Greenpeace spokesman in St Petersburg.

All of those detained were initially charged with piracy, but investigators later changed the charge to hooliganism. Although a lesser charge, hooliganism carries a potential sentence of seven years. Piracy’s maximum is 15.

Bail for each of those released has been set at two million roubles (£38,000).