Peter Willcox, the captain of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, was released from a St. Petersburg prison on Friday, along with 13 further crew members, taking the total number of those released to 24. The Russian authorities said on Friday that 29 of the 30 crew had been granted bail.
"I feel like I'm down out of the tree but still in the forest," Willcox told journalists. "But it's a big step."
The activists were freed after Greenpeace paid bail of 60,750 dollars each (45,000 euros). But they still have to face charges, carrying a potential a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
In total, 30 activists had been detained for more than two months over a protest against Arctic oil drilling. They were arrested and put in jail for a protest at a Russian oil rig, where some members tried to board the platform.
The jailing of the activists was widely condemned and prompted calls for their release by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western leaders.
Also on Friday, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg ruled Russia should provisionally release Greenpeace's vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, and the 30 detainees. The Netherlands brought the case to the Tribunal, which ruled 19 to 2 in favor. Russia, however, had said it would not accept the tribunal's decision.
ng, ph/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)