First Greenpeace activist leaves Russia
Greenpeace says it will make sure a Kiwi arrested in a protest against Arctic oil drilling gets home safely after the criminal charges against him were dropped.
The criminal charges of hooliganism against all but one of the crew of 30 were dropped under an amnesty that was passed by the Russian Parliament this month.
The amnesty was seen by many as an attempt by the Kremlin to dampen the criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
An Italian crew member is the only protester who has failed to get his criminal case closed due to the lack of an interpreter.
The first activists had begun to leave Russia, and all were expected to be returning home by Friday (local time), Greenpeace said.
Nelson man David Haussmann was still awaiting an exit visa, but should get back in the coming days, Greenpeace New Zealand spokesman Niall Bennett said.
"It looks pretty much definite that David's just going to want to come straight home, keep his head down, stay quiet and just hang out with his whanau for a bit," Bennett said.
"We'll be talking to him, we'll make sure he gets back safely, but then he's just going to want to hang out with his family."
Greenpeace New Zealand had remained in contact with Haussmann during the group's two months in jail.
New Zealand-born Jon Beauchamp, who lives in Australia, was also a member of the group.
Soviet-born Swedish activist Dima Litvinov crossed the Finnish border today after receiving an exit stamp in his passport. Thirteen others have also received the stamp which allows them to leave, Greenpeace said, with rest of the "Arctic 30" expected to go through the process on Friday.
"Now I'm going home to my bed, my wife, my kids and my life," Dima said in a statement. "I'm leaving Russia feeling like we won something here."
Russia's treatment of the 30 activists from 18 countries - who spent two months in detention and faced hooliganism charges punishable by seven years in jail - had drawn heavy criticism from Western nations and celebrities.
Russia says activists endangered lives and property in the protest at the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea, a key element of Russia's plans to develop the Arctic.
Greenpeace said the boarding of its icebreaker by Russian authorities after the protest was illegal and says its activists conducted a peaceful protest.
- Fairfax NZ and Reuters