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Kremlin Official Claims Greenpeace Protesters Can Leave


Greenpeace activist Anne Mie Roer Jensen (left) of Denmark looks on during a hearing at the Primorskiy Court in St. Petersburg on November 20.

Greenpeace activist Anne Mie Roer Jensen (left) of Denmark looks on during a hearing at the Primorskiy Court in St. Petersburg on November 20.

A senior Russian official has said that the Greenpeace protesters who have been released on bail pending charges stemming from a September protest at an Arctic oil rig will be able to leave the country.

Presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said the 27 crew members and two journalists who are out on bail can leave "as soon as the issue of how they can leave" is settled.

He did not elaborate in his November 23 comments, but the problem seems to be that they do not have Russian visas, since they were brought forcibly into the country by the coast guard after their ship was seized.

One crew member remains in custody after being denied bail earlier this month.

The St. Petersburg court that released the activists ordered them to remain in the country until their trial on hooliganism charges.

A UN maritime tribunal on November 22 ordered Russia to release the Greenpeace ship, the "Arctic Sunrise," as well as all 30 people detained aboard it during the September protest against oil drilling in the northernmost region of the Arctic.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg was acting on a request from the Netherlands, where the Greenpeace craft is registered.

Russia's Foreign Ministry responded that it would look at the ruling but added that the tribunal, established to mediate in disputes arising from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, had no jurisdiction in the case.

"We have seen the reaction of Russia to the court's ruling. They have said that they didn't accept the jurisdiction of the court but, at the same time, they've also said that they would study the ruling of the court very carefully," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said after Moscow's reaction to the ruling. "So let's wait and see what the conclusion is of the Russian Federation and what measures they might take afterwards."

The captain of the "Arctic Sunrise," 60-year-old American Peter Willcox, said last week after his release on bail that the Russian experience -- particularly hearing of "piracy" charges and the prospect of many years in a Russian jail over a protest action -- had "affected" him, adding, "I'm going to be much more conservative with the way I do actions in the future."

Based on reporting by Interfax, Reuters, AFP, and RIA-Novosti
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