At least seven of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested after protesting Russian drilling in the Arctic Sea more than three months ago have left Russia.
Five British citizens and one Canadian flew from St. Petersburg to Paris on December 28 after having received the necessary visas from Russian officials.
Dmitry Litvinov, a Soviet-born Swedish activist, was the first to leave and crossed the Finnish border after getting an exit visa on December 26.
Four of the 30 are Russian citizens.
Before leaving Russia, Litvinov told Reuters that Greenpeace will continue protesting oil extraction in the Arctic despite Moscow's harsh reaction.
"I am glad that this chapter is over, but the book still remains to be written. As long as there is a threat for the Arctic, as long as multinational companies like Gazprom, like Shell, like Exxon, and the puppet regimes are intent on raping the Arctic, we will certainly continue to fight against that and to work towards a sane future," Litvinov said.
Litvinov added that Russia's reaction drew attention to the issue of Arctic development.
"This was an absolute shock for us. I think that Gazprom and other companies that stood behind this -- which I am convinced that they did -- were in for a surprise. If they thought that they could shut us up, this had exactly the opposite effect," Litvinov said. "Now many more people around the world know about the threat to the Arctic from oil exploration and about the need to fight against than before. So, it was a shock for us, but I think it was also a shock for them."
Greenpeace said it expects the remaining activists will get clearance to leave Russia by December 27.
Russia on December 26 completed the process of formally dropping criminal charges against activists and crew members of the "Arctic Sunrise" protest vessel.
Russia's treatment of the activists -- who spent two months in detention and faced hooliganism charges punishable by seven years in jail -- had drawn heavy criticism from the West.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia's response to a Greenpeace protest should serve as a lesson.
Based on reporting by Interfax, AFP, and Reuters