St Petersburg, 27 December 2013 – The Arctic 30 are going home. They are leaving Russia today and over the weekend. A plane carrying five Britons and a Canadian took off shortly after 11:30 am local time from St Petersburg airport, heading for Paris. On board are Anthony Perrett, Phil Ball, Iain Rogers, Alex Harris, Kieron Bryan and Alexandre Paul.
Dima Litvinov from Sweden took a train across the border to Finland shortly before midnight on Thursday.
Alex Harris is 27 and from Devon in the UK. Before departing she said:
“We’re leaving Russia, it’s over, we’re finally truly free. It feels like the moment I’ve been waiting for, and my family too, but also for millions of people around the world who have worked for this, and I simply cannot find the words to say how grateful and humbled I am by their support. People I will never meet have campaigned for our release, they wrote emails, they marched, they protested, they made a noise that became deafening, even in the Kremlin. I promise I will repay those people by using my freedom to stand up for the Arctic.”
Fourteen of the Arctic 30 were issued with exit visas yesterday. Eleven more have been issued visas today, leaving just one more to be issued before all 26 non-Russian nationals have an exit visa.
Twenty-eight activists and two freelance journalists were jailed after a peaceful protest at an Arctic oil platform operated by Gazprom. The Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise was boarded by Russian security officers on September 19 and was then towed to Murmansk.
Phil Ball said today:
“We’re celebrating, but I want to say that this should never have happened. One hundred days ago today we were seized in international waters by armed commandos. We faced ridiculous charges, piracy then hooliganism, and spent two months in jail for a crime we didn’t commit. We were guilty of nothing more than having a conscience. We sailed north to peacefully protest against a reckless new industry, because sometimes taking a stand is the only thing you can do. That’s what I feel about Arctic oil drilling, and while I’m now free, we haven’t won the campaign to save the Arctic. We’re closer now, but there’s a still long way to go.”
The activists will continue to leave Russia today. Among them is expected to be Peter Willcox, the captain of the Arctic Sunrise.
Dima Litvinov was the first of the Arctic 30 to leave Russia, crossing the border to Finland by train just before midnight Russian time on Thursday. He said:
“I’ve never regretted what we did, not once, not in prison and definitely not now. Sometimes you just have to stand up and ask to be counted, and that’s what we did in the Arctic. They didn’t throw us in jail for what we did, they locked us up because of what we stood for. The Arctic oil companies are scared of dissent, and they should be. They may have celebrated when our ship was seized, but our imprisonment has been a disaster for them. The movement to save the Arctic is marching now. Our freedom is the start of something, not the end. This is only the beginning. The oil companies are moving north, the world’s climate is changing, the biggest struggles still lie ahead of us.”