27 Dec 2013

British Greenpeace activists return to UK from Russia

Five Britons arrested in Russia as part of the Greenpeace “Arctic 30” group arrive back in Britain after being granted an amnesty.

The five were accused of hooliganism after a protest against oil drilling and were held in Russian prisons for two months.

The group have since been granted amnesty under a new Russian law.

Anthony Perrett, Alexandra Harris and Phil Ball travelled home with crew member Iain Rogers and videographer Kieron Bryan after 100 days in Russia.

It has been a strange few months but it is over now and it is good to be back. Anthony Perrett, Greenpeace activist

The five were among 30 people held on hooliganism charges and were released under a new Russian amnesty law.

They flew from St Petersburg to Paris, then travelled on to St Pancras on Eurostar.

Arriving at St Pancras, a tired-looking Mr Perrett told reporters: “It has been a strange few months, but it is over now and it is good to be back. We’re very relieved to be home, it’s good to be back and speaking English, which has been sorely missed.”

‘Trying to save the Arctic’

Asked whether it had been worth it, he said: “Well, look at the media that’s here today. We’re trying to spread the word to save the Arctic and I think we have done that job fairly well.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to spending some time in the woods and getting at one with nature that we are trying to preserve.”

He said prison conditions in Murmansk had been difficult, describing being held in a cell for 23 hours a day and sharing a toilet without a cubicle with three others.

The group were protesting against an Arctic offshore oil rig owned by the Russian company Gazprom.

‘Welcome step’

Europe Minister David Lidington welcomed Russia’s move to release the six British nationals.

The minister said he was pleased by the decision to release two members of the band Pussy Riot and a number of protesters who had been held followingdemonstrations in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in May last year.

“This is a welcome step from the Russian government. We have provided consular support throughout the case and my ministerial colleagues and I have repeatedly called for a fair and proportionate conclusion.

“I am also pleased that two members of Pussy Riot and a number of the Bolotnaya protesters have been released.

“Whilst this move is welcome, issues of concern remain with the Russian judicial system. The British government continues to call on the Russian authorities to strengthen the rule of law, tackle corruption and promote independence of the judiciary.”