Russia releases Greenpeace detainees on bail

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Media captionRussian detainee Denis Sinyakov was released and two Britons granted bail

Eleven out of 30 people arrested on a Greenpeace ship while protesting against Arctic oil drilling have left prison on bail in Russia.

There were joyful scenes as family and friends greeted detainees in the northern city of St Petersburg, where they had their court hearings.

A further 15 have had bail approved and are awaiting formal release.

Hearings for three others have still to be held, while one had his application for bail denied.

All 30 still face possible trial on charges of hooliganism over the protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig owned by the Russian company Gazprom.

There has been a rapid change in the Russian authorities' position, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from St Petersburg.

But for some reason - perhaps linked to next year's Winter Olympics in Russia - prosecutors suddenly stopped opposing bail, and the judges started setting the campaigners free, our correspondent says.

It is still unclear if they will now be allowed to leave Russia.

'Not guilty'

The Arctic Sunrise, with a crew hailing from 16 countries, was seized by the Russian authorities on 18 September.

Russian freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov hugged his wife after his release on Thursday while Yekaterina Zaspa, the doctor on the ship, embraced her husband.

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Media captionThe partner of Anthony Perrett says she is focused on getting him home to Wales

"I am not guilty, and there is no crime in people organising peaceful protests," Sinyakov, 36, told reporters.

The other detainees freed are Greenpeace press secretary Andrei Allakhverdov from Russia, Brazilian activist Ana Paula Maciel; Camila Speziale from Argentina; Tomasz Dziemianczuk from Poland; Anne Mie Jensen from Denmark; Sini Saarela from Finland; Cristian D'Alessandro from Italy; Francesco Pisanu from France; and David Haussman from New Zealand.

Five Britons have been granted bail but are still in custody: Frank Hewetson, Iain Rogers, Alex Harris, Kieron Bryan and Anthony Perrett.

Bail has been approved for the ship's US captain, Peter Willcox, as well as Ukraine's Ruslan Yakushev; Turkey's Gizem Akhan; Canada's Alexandre Paul and Paul Ruzycki; the Netherlands' Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels; Switzerland's Marco Weber; Argentina's Miguel Orsi; and New Zealand's Jonathan Beauchamp.

One detainee, Australian radio operator Colin Russell, was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until 24 February. Greenpeace is lodging an appeal.

The other three people still waiting for their bail hearings are Phil Ball from the UK, Roman Dolgov from Russia and Dima Litvinov from Sweden.

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