A Russian court on Thursday granted bail to Australian Colin Russell, one of the 30 Greenpeace International [advocacy website] crew members detained since their September protest against Arctic oil drilling. Greenpeace says Russell will be released [RFP report] from prison as soon as the court accepts the organization's two-million-ruble (USD 66,000) bail payment. The decision to grant bail followed another judge's decision reversing an earlier ruling that Russell remain in pre-trial detention until February 24, a day after the end of Russia's Winter Olympic Games. Russell was the only member of the Arctic Sunrise crew to have had his bail request denied in a series of hearings. The decision to release Russell will likely take some international pressure off Russia, which rejected a separate decision by an international maritime tribunal in Germany for Russia to return the Dutch-flagged icebreaker to Greenpeace.
Earlier this month, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) [official website] on Friday ordered the release [JURIST report] of the Arctic Sunrise as well as the release of the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were arrested on board the ship, upon payment of a 3.6 million euro bond by the Netherlands. The Greenpeace activists were staging a protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Russian fixed gas platform, where they were arrested and charged with piracy [JURIST report]. Upon payment of the bond, the detainees and the Arctic Sunrise will be allowed to leave Russia's territory and maritime areas for the first time since their initial detention at the end of September. Although 29 of the 30 who were detained in connection with the Arctic Sunrise have been granted bail by Russian courts, Greenpeace welcomed the ITLOS ruling [press release], stating "it is time for the Arctic 30 to come home to their loved ones." Russia's treatment of the activists has drawn criticism [press release] from rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], as well as from other countries.