Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise: Russia 'frees protest ship'

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe Arctic Sunrise had been held in the Russian port city of Murmansk since September

Russian authorities have released the Greenpeace ship seized after a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic last year, the environmental group says.

The Arctic Sunrise, which had been held in the port of Murmansk, is back in the hands of campaigners, Greenpeace said.

The ship and 30 people on board were detained in September after activists tried to scale a Russian oil rig.

The detainees - known as the Arctic 30 - were held on hooliganism charges but later released under a new amnesty law.

"The ship got no such amnesty. Instead she has been left unattended and unloved to rust quietly in a corner of the port far away from prying eyes," said Greenpeace's Ben Ayliffe in statement.

"Thankfully, her ordeal should soon be over. Our lawyers have signed the papers and she's officially back in our hands."


It comes after Russia's investigative committee announced it had annulled the arrest of the vessel earlier on Friday, the campaign group said.

Greenpeace will now focus on checking and repairing the ship, which operates under a Dutch flag, before it leaves Russia in the coming days.

image captionThe Greenpeace activists were arrested after trying to scale a Gazprom oil platform in Russian waters

A UN maritime tribunal ordered Russia to release the Arctic Sunrise in November, after the Dutch authorities argued that Russia had violated international law by failing to respect the freedom of navigation.

But a Russian statement issued after the ruling said the Hamburg court had no jurisdiction in the case.

The Arctic Sunrise was stopped and searched on 18 September. Thirty people - 28 activists and two journalists - were detained.

Initially they were charged with piracy, but the charges were later reduced to hooliganism.

They were held in jail until being released on bail in November, and the charges were later dropped after Russia's parliament passed an amnesty law.

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