Arctic Oil Protest Brits Freed In Russia

Five of the Britons arrested by Russian authorities during a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling have been released from detention in St Petersburg.

Activists Iain Rogers, Frank Hewetson, Alexandra Harris and Anthony Perrett, and journalist Kieron Bryan are the first of six Britons to be freed on bail. Three Russian nationals were freed on Monday.

Thirty people, including the six Britons aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, were detained after the protest in September.

The sixth Briton, Philip Ball, has been granted bail, but has yet to be freed.

Speaking after his release, Mr Bryan told Sky News it felt "very, very good" to be free.

"It's good to be outside and see the sky for the first time for a while," he said.

"To everyone who's supported me and the rest of the group: Keep fighting, we're not free yet, this is first step. It's a glimmer of justice, but it's not finished."

He said being imprisoned had been "tough" and that he was looking forward to "a long shower", "never doing another Sudoku puzzle again" and "an improved diet".

Mr Rogers told Sky News: "It's lovely (to be out). It's been pretty traumatic, but it's good for the campaign.

"I think Gazprom have given us the ideal opportunity and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for publicising our campaign to stop drilling in the Arctic so much."

Speaking immediately after his release, Mr Hewetson told Sky News: "It feels very good to be out. It's been a long time, two months.

"The campaign's not over. There are many oil companies that are going to be drilling in the Arctic, not only in Russia. In Greenland, America and Canada. The fight continues."

Asked if he would do it again, he said: "That depends."

All 30 of the accused were initially charged with piracy but are now accused of hooliganism, which carries a shorter maximum jail term of seven years.

Ms Harris revealed she was kept in a cell on her own after being taken to a prison in Murmansk.

"For the first week it was really harsh. It was nerve-wracking," she said immediately after being released.

"I was in a cell on my own. You do get used to it, but it was tough."

All those released have had their passports returned to them, but none have visas and it is unclear if they will be allowed to leave the country.

A UN-mandated tribunal has ordered Russia to immediately release the Greenpeace ship and its crew in return for a £5m bond.

Russia subsequently released a statement insisting the international maritime tribunal had no jurisdiction over the case.

Greenpeace on Thursday unveiled giant portraits of those arrested - the "Arctic 30" - outside the London offices of oil giant Shell.

The protest group said it was drawing attention to Shell and its Russian partner Gazprom's planned joint venture to drill for oil in the Arctic.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "Shell and Gazprom are not equipped to drill in the Arctic without causing catastrophic damage to the unique ecosystem.

"But what makes their Arctic plans so blindly stupid is that they're only able to drill there because of the huge loss of Arctic sea ice from climate change."