29 Dec 2013

NZ protestors quit Russia

9:07 pm on 29 December 2013

Two New Zealanders arrested in September during an attempt by Greenpeace to board a Gazprom oil rig in the Arctic have left Russia.

David Haussmann at St Petersburg airport on Friday.

David Haussmann at St Petersburg airport on Friday. Photo: AFP / Greenpeace / Igor Podgorny

David Haussmann and Jon Beauchamp were among 30 people charged with hooliganism after the incident, but all have now been granted amnesty.

The campaign director for Greenpeace, Carmen Gravatt, said the pair obtained exit visas on Friday night (NZT).

The demonstration against oil prospecting targeted a rig in the Barents Sea owned by the Russian state-owned oil company, Gazprom. During it, two of the activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise scaled the rig, leading to the charges against all 30 people involved.

Ms Gravatt said no further details will be issued about Mr Haussmann and Mr Beauchamp's return to New Zealand, because they want to spend time with their families when they arrive home.

Mr Beauchamp will travel to New Zealand before returning to South Australia, where he lives.

All but one of the 26 foreigners in the group are now out of Russia. They began departing on Thursday, when Swedish-American Dima Litvinov left Saint Petersburg on a train to Helsinki.

All charges against the foreigners were dropped after the Russian parliament passed an amnesty on hooliganism on 18 December.

Critics of Russia's treatment of political prisoners say the amnesty was timed to improve the country's image before the Winter Olympics are held at Sochi next year.

Greenpeace says it's likely many of the 30 people arrested will continue to be involved in the campaign.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Bunny McDiarmid said they knew what the risks were, and the Arctic's profile was raised during their lengthy ordeal.

Despite what happened, Ms McDiarmid said they won't be changing tactics for future campaigns in the Arctic.