All six Britons arrested by Russian authorities during a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic have been granted bail and five have been released, while a UN-mandated tribunal has ordered the immediate release of the environmental group’s vessel.
The Arctic Sunrise was seized by the Russian authorities, and 28 activists and two freelance journalists on board were arrested two months ago.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, sitting in Hamburg, said the ship and those arrested should be released in return for a E3.6m (£3m) bond.
Greenpeace said it was a “historic” day, when the rights of the so-called Arctic 30 had been upheld by an international court of law.
The five Britons released by courts in St Petersburg were Anthony Perrett, from Newport in South Wales, freelance journalist Kieron Bryan, Alexandra Harris from Exeter, Iain Rogers from Devon, and Frank Hewetson from London. Philip Ball from Oxford has been granted bail but remained in detention.
Australian Colin Russell, a radio engineer, is the only one of the 30 to have been refused bail.
Mr Bryan and Ms Harris told how tough it had been when they were locked up after the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise was boarded by Russian security forces during a protest against oil drilling.
Ms Harris revealed she was kept in a cell on her own after being taken to a prison in Murmansk.
“For the first week it was really harsh. It was nerve-wracking,” she told BBC News immediately after being released.
“I was in a cell on my own. You do get used to it, but it was tough.”
Ms Harris said letters from supporters had kept her going.
Mr Bryan said: “More than anything, it’s the isolation and not being able to speak to anyone, not being able to speak a common language. Being trapped in a cell for 24 hours a day is something I don’t ever want to experience again, and there are a lot of people inside who have to carry on doing that.”
After watching the live pictures of Mr Bryan walking out of jail, his father Andy Bryan said: “We’re absolutely thrilled Kieron is out. He looks tremendously relieved, in good shape, and doesn’t seem to have lost his sense of humour either.
“Now we just can’t wait to speak to him and then we’ll hopefully be able to see him in person too. Of course, there are still these terrible charges hanging over him. He feels a terrible injustice has been done but has also made it clear that he intends to clear his name.”
Mr Perrett is a tree surgeon and director of a company which encourages and supports the use of renewable energy.
He said the Arctic was where the battle to save the planet will be fought.
Friends said he went to the Arctic driven by his belief that there are ways to live on this planet without destroying it. Before he left, he said he was nervous but not afraid of going on the trip.
The 30 were arrested during a protest against drilling in the Arctic and were initially held in Murmansk before being moved to St Petersburg.
They were charged with piracy but the authorities said this would be changed to hooliganism.
Greenpeace said the 30 had done nothing wrong, and the group has launched a worldwide campaign to have them freed.
Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said: “This saga is far from over.”