Russia: Greenpeace activists can return home. Will this buy goodwill for Sochi?

Russia: Greenpeace activists are now free to leave Russia. Officials dropped criminal charges on Wednesday and began issuing visas Thursday. The charges stemmed from a September protest outside an Arctic oil rig. 

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP
Greenpeace International activist Anthony Perrett of the United Kingdom shows journalists his passport with permission to leave Russia, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 26. Russian investigators have dropped charges against all but one of the 30 crew of a Greenpeace ship, who were accused of hooliganism following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.

Russian authorities on Thursday issued visas to seven of 30 members of aGreenpeace ship crew that allow them to leave the country after dropping criminal charges against them over a protest outside an Arctic oil rig.

Greenpeace said Thursday other foreign members of the crew were expected to get their exit visas soon.

The 30 people were arrested in September following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic and spent two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.

Hooliganism charges against the crew were later dropped after Russia's parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin's to assuage the criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Greenpeace said Anthony Perrett of Britain was the first to get the visa in his passport Thursday.

"This was the final step," Perrett said in a statement released by the group. "I'll be leaving for home in Wales as soon as possible now, extremely proud of what I did three months ago. We took peaceful action to defend a part of the world that is the heartbeat of our climate."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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