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PUTIN SAYS GREENPEACE HAD "NOBLE" MOTIVES AS MORE CREW FREED

November 21, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

Environmental activists hold pictures of Greenpeace ship crew members imprisoned in Russia on November 16, 2013.



Russia on Thursday released six Greenpeace activists on bail, bringing the number freed from jail to seven as President Vladimir Putin said the group had noble motives for their Arctic protest.

Photographer Denis Sinyakov, Greenpeace press secretary Andrei Allakhverdov, the ship's doctor Yekaterina Zaspa, David John Haussman from New Zealand, France's Francesco Pisanu and Italian Cristian D'Alessandro all left detention after being granted bail by Saint Petersburg courts, the group said.

On Thursday, courts also granted bail to Jon Beauchamp of New Zealand, British crewmembers Frank Hewetson and Iain Rogers, Ukrainian cook Ruslan Yakushev, Canadian bosun Alexandre Paul and Turkish activist Gizem Akhan, Greenpeace said.

They have not yet been released.

Three are still awaiting court decisions. One activist from Australia has been refused bail.

Putin said he believed the Greenpeace activists were acting with good intentions, but that they were wrong to climb up the oil platform and ram boats of coastguards.

"Are they doing something noble? Yes, they are. Did they act rightly when they climbed the platform? No, it was not right," he said in televised comments at a meeting with writers.

"Some climbed onto the platform, while others attacked our coastguards, practically storming them with their boats," Putin said.

Putin quoted a catch phrase from a 1960s-era Soviet comedy film that refers to physical punishment: "Fedya, that's not our method."

After treating the crewmembers harshly on their arrest, the Russian authorities have gradually climbed down, reducing their charge from piracy to hooliganism and now sanctioning their release.

But the activists still face a possible jail sentence of up to seven years.

'An act of protest is not hooliganism'

Sinyakov's detention over the September protest at a state-owned oil rig was particularly controversial because he is a well-known press photographer who was working for Greenpeace as a freelancer.

The photographer, who has grown a beard in prison, raised a fist in triumph after stepping out of the notorious Kresty prison.

"An action of protest is not hooliganism," Sinyakov told TV Rain.

"My main task is to prove my innocence. I will be trying to achieve that."

He said that the conditions in the Murmansk prison where he was held until this month were much worse than in Saint Petersburg, but "they were bearable."

"The psychological situation itself is harder," he said.

On Wednesday evening, the first Greenpeace activist, Brazilian Anna Paula Maciel, walked out of her Saint Petersburg prison, smiling and holding a sign saying "Save the Arctic."

"Ana Paula's passport has now been given back to her and she has been given a special registration card stating that she legally arrived in the Russian Federation," Greenpeace said in a statement sent to AFP, adding that all the freed activists were staying in Saint Petersburg.

"There is no clarity on when the Arctic 30 will be able to return home."

Sinyakov told TV Rain that the investigators were still holding his international passport.

The jailing of the 30 prompted calls for their release from politicians including British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as stars such as Madonna and Paul McCartney.

This week, two courts in Saint Petersburg have ruled to release 26 crewmembers on condition that they pay bail of 2 million rubles ($60,750).

But a court extended the detention of one crewmember of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise ship, 59-year-old Australian radio operator Colin Russell, until February 24.

Australia's ambassador to Russia, Paul Myler, wrote on Twitter that he visited Russell Thursday and the activist was "in good spirits and confident his appeal will be successful."

Myler said Russian officials had suggested to him that the different decision in Russell's case could simply have been due to the fact that he was the first activist in court.

"General consensus: the first pancake never works out," Myler wrote, a Russian proverb meaning that the first attempt at something is usually unsuccessful.

Those granted bail include the two activists who actually scaled the oil rig during the September 18 protest in the Barents Sea.

Greenpeace said Thursday that a court in Murmansk rejected the group's appeal against the confiscation of their ship. - AFP



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