MOSCOW Nov 28 A Russian court on Thursday
granted bail to the last Greenpeace activist still in custody
over a protest against offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.
Australian Colin Russell, 59, will be released from
pre-trial detention in St. Petersburg when 2-million-rouble
($60,000) bail is posted, Greenpeace said. All the other 29
arrested during the protest have already been freed on bail.
Russell was a crew member on the Arctic Sunrise, a
Greenpeace icebreaker forcibly boarded by Russian coast guards
following the Sept. 18 protest, in which activists tried to
scale an oil platform run by state-controlled Gazprom.
All 30 people arrested have been charged with hooliganism
and face up seven years in prison if convicted in a case that
has drawn criticism from the West and is seen by Kremlin critics
as part of a clampdown on dissent by President Vladimir Putin.
Russell was denied bail in hearings earlier this month, but
his appeal was successful. It is uncertain when the non-Russians
in the group, which includes people of 18 nationalities, will be
able to leave Russia.
"None of us will truly be celebrating until they've been
allowed to return home and the charges against them have been
dropped," Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said in a
statement. He said they would remain in St. Petersburg for now.
The Prirazlomnaya platform is Russia's first offshore oil
rig in the Arctic, where production of hard-to-reach hydrocarbon
resources could bolster Russia's energy-reliant economy. Putin
has called Arctic shipping and development a priority.
Greenpeace has dismissed the charges as unfounded, saying
the protest was a peaceful attempt to draw attention to
potential environmental damages threatened by drilling in the
relatively pristine region.