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Freedom for Arctic 30, Pussy Riot Celebrated as Russian Amnesty Law Passes

'There is no amnesty for the Arctic,' say Greenpeace campaigners as they welcome possible end to their own legal battle

- Jon Queally, staff writer

After a peaceful protest to stop climate change, Russian authorities seized 28 international activists and two freelance journalists along with Greenpeace's ship, the Arctic Sunrise, on September 19th. (Greenpeace)With a vote of 446-0 in the Russian parliament on Wednesday, the passage of a sweeping amnesty bill comes as a welcome gift to the international Greenpeace team known as the 'Arctic 30,' two prominent members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot, and other prisoners in the country's jails and prison camps who could be released as early as today if the law is swiftly stamped by President Vladimir Putin.

Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who could be released as early as Thursday. (Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA) As the Guardian reports:

The Greenpeace Arctic 30 could be home for Christmas, and the two jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot will be released from jail as early as Thursday, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by the Russian parliament on Wednesday. The Pussy Riot pair are serving a two-year jail sentence, while the Greenpeace activists are charged with hooliganism and are currently on bail for trial in St Petersburg.

The amnesty, backed by Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, and is being seen as a move to boost Russia's image ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, due to start in less than two months. An amendment to the amnesty law on passed Wednesday morning extended the amnesty to suspects in cases of hooliganism, which includes the Arctic 30, arrested aboard the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise in September. The Greenpeace activists expressed relief, though Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Willcox said: "There is no amnesty for the Arctic."

Ana Paula Maciel from Brazil is one of the people who was seized in international waters when the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was boarded by armed Russian commandos nearly three months ago. Reacting to today’s developments, she said:

“I’m relieved, but I’m not celebrating. I spent two months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit and faced criminal charges that were nothing less than absurd. But now at last it seems like this saga could soon be over and it may not be long before we’re back with our families. Right now my thoughts are with our Russian colleagues. If they accept this amnesty they will have criminal records in the country where they live, and all for something they didn’t do. All because we stood up for Arctic protection.”

The news was received with joy by the activists' family members and their supporters worldwide on Twitter:

The possible release of the Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who rose to global prominence for their principled opposition to the Putin government's anti-democratic tendencies, was also being celebrated on Twitter:



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