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Russia Formally Drops All Charges Against 'Arctic 30'
Until the drilling stops, the Greenpeace campaign will continue
Russia formally dropped all charges Wednesday against 29 of the 30 Greenpeace 'Arctic 30' activists who were arrested protesting against Russian Arctic oil drilling.
Because there was a Christmas day problem finding an Italian translator for the final member of the group, charges won't be officially dropped for him until Thursday.
The cases are being dropped as part of the amnesty measure passed by the Russian parliament last week.
The final chapter in the legal ordeal of the Arctic 30 began as the group was asked to attend a Christmas day meeting at Russia's Investigative Committee, where the criminal case against them is being dropped en masse.
They will then have one more hurdle – securing exit visas in their passports – before the non-Russians are free to leave the country and be reunited with their families. A meeting with the Federal Migration Service is scheduled for later today. The Arctic 30 are expected to leave Russia in the coming days.
After first being charged with 'piracy', all 30 had faced 'hooliganism' charges and up to seven years jail if convicted.
Greenpeace said 29 of the 30, who are still in Russia after being freed on bail, have now been amnestied and will be free to leave for their home countries as soon as they receive their exit visas.
"This is the day we've been waiting for since our ship was boarded by armed commandos almost three months ago," Peter Willcox, Captain of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, the ship used in the protest, said in a statement.
"I'm pleased and relieved the charges have been dropped, but we should not have been charged at all."
Greenpeace says the boarding of its icebreaker by Russian authorities was illegal, and says its activists conducted a peaceful protest.
James Lorenz from Greenpeace says protests will continue.
"Until the drilling stops in this pristine environment, the Greenpeace campaign will continue," he said.