Free From Jail But Still Trapped in Russia, 'Arctic 30' Seek Exit Visas
Out on bail, activists say prison was "worth it" for the attention it brought to Arctic drilling
Free for now but still trapped within the confines of Russia's borders, the 26 non-Russian members of the Arctic 30 are seeking exit visas after being released on bail for a peaceful demonstration atop a drilling platform in September, Greenpeace lawyers said Wednesday.
According to Greenpeace, lawyers representing the international group have begun to lodge applications with Russia's Investigative Committee seeking exit visas for the non-Russian nationals.
"They have already paid an absurd and excessive price for an entirely peaceful and justified protest against the dangers of Arctic oil drilling," said Ben Ayliffe, Arctic campaigner at Greenpeace International.
Ayeliffe said that Greenpeace cannot guarantee when and even if the protesters will be granted the visas, but that they are doing their best to get them home as soon as possible.
"This is a unique situation where the Arctic 30 were charged and then bailed inside Russia after they were detained in international waters beyond Russia’s territorial waters," said Jasper Teulings, General Counsel at Greenpeace International. "We are hopeful this issue can be resolved."
On November 29 the last of the Arctic 30 was released on bail. Through a series of interviews following their discharge, the New York Times reports on the "legal limbo" that has shrouded the activists' arrest and imprisonment.
The Times reports:
Working through translators, because most of the crew spoke little or no Russian, the investigators produced sheet after sheet of documents for the detainees to sign, chronicling the slow progression of the criminal case but not delving into the facts of the allegations themselves.
“They haven’t been asking me, ‘What did you do? Why did you do it?’ ” said Sini Saarela of Finland, an experienced rock climber who briefly scaled Russia’s first offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea the day before armed border troops seized the crew and their ship, the Arctic Sunrise. “At some point in the process, we realized this is not actually about what happened.”
The piece details the "slavish and at times comic attention to bureaucratic protocol" paid by the Russian investigators and the activists' confusion and surprise following their initial charge of piracy and, again, after the charges were reduced to hooliganism.
Though their time spent in Russian detention was described as "grim and uncertain," the crew members believe their personal sacrifice succeeded in drawing attention to the dangers of Arctic drilling.
“We’ve achieved in two months what it took years for the Arctic campaign to do,” Alexandra Harris of Britain told the Times. “And that made our being in prison worth it.”
Since their release the Arctic 30 have had medical checks, have talked to or had visits from loved ones and "are getting plenty of food, care and rest," Greenpeace reports.
All the protesters are staying at a hotel in St. Petersburg as they await the proper exit visas. The Investigative Committee is expected to respond to the request within three days.