26 December 2013, News Wires -The first of 30 Greenpeace activists held in Russia on charges of hooliganism related to a protest against Arctic drilling has been released, with more than a dozen expected to follow shortly, the environmental group said.
Soviet-born Swedish activist Dima Litvinov crossed Russia’s border with Finland on Thursday after receiving an exit stamp in his passport, Greenpeace said.
Russia began dropping charges earlier this week against Litvinov and others known as the “Arctic 30″. They had been detained for months after boarding state-controlled Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform during a protest in the Pechora Sea. They were charged with endangering lives and property, and faced hooliganism counts punishable by seven years in jail.
“I’ve never regretted what we did, not once, not in prison and definitely not now,” Litvinov said in a statement. “I’m going home to my bed, my wife, my kids and my life. I’m leaving Russia feeling like we won something here.”
He added: “The Arctic oil companies are scared of dissent, and they should be.”
Thirteen other detained activists were given exit stamps on Thursday and the rest are expected to receive stamps on Friday.
Russia’s treatment of the Greenpeace group had received steep criticism from around the world. Kremlin critics have said the country relented in part to improve its image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, due to kick off in February.
Greenpeace has said the protest that landed 30 of its members in jail was peaceful.