Russia on Thursday started issuing visas to foreign crew members of a Greenpeace protest ship and dropped the criminal case against the last member of the 30-strong team.
Italy’s Christian d’Alessandro was notified by investigators that the case against him had been dropped, Greenpeace said. Earlier this week, Russia closed the cases of the other 29 crew members of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship under a Kremlin-backed amnesty.
Anthony Perrett from Britain was the first crew member to be given an exit visa, and happily showed off the document to journalists outside the offices of the Federal Migration Service.
“He will be able to go home before the New Year!” Greenpeace tweeted.
“More than 20 people from the Arctic Sunrise crew applied for visa documents,” a spokesman at the migration service said. But the spokesman said the service could not guarantee that all the activists would get home before the year-end.
“We’re not sure how it will turn out. But we are hoping that things will be in favour of the Greenpeace activists,” the spokesman told AFP.
Of the 26 foreign crew members five do not need visas in Russia.
However Greenpeace said they still need a “sticker” from the migration service to leave the country. Russian border guards had boarded their ship and had it towed to the Arctic port of Murmansk in September over their protest against Arctic oil drilling.
The activists were charged with hooliganism which carries a maximum punishment of seven years in jail. They originally faced a charge of piracy, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but this was dropped soon after President Vladimir Putin said the activists were “not pirates”.
The hooliganism probe against the 30-strong crew, which included four Russians, was dropped this week following a Kremlin-backed amnesty that was widely seen as an attempt by Putin to improve Russia’s image before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next February.