The mother of a Greenpeace activist in Russia says her son’s airline ticket is booked and he could be home as early as Friday, nearly 100 days after he and another Canadian were first picked up by Russian authorities.
Nicole Paul says she spoke to her son, Alexandre Paul, from St. Petersburg on Wednesday. The 36-year-old was in good health and had reserved a flight that could land him back in Montreal on Friday afternoon.
“It was my Christmas gift. This closes a chapter,” Ms. Paul said from her home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
Greenpeace says the other Canadian, 48-year-old Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont, is also expected home by this weekend.
All that remains is for Russia to issue an exit visa, something that is expected to be done on Friday morning, said Diego Creimer, a Quebec-based spokesman for Greenpeace.
“Everyone is coming home this weekend,” he said. “We’ve arranged the logistics. All that’s left is packing and getting on the plane.”
The Canadians’ imminent return comes after Russia dropped criminal charges against them and other Greenpeace activists who were jailed after a September protest targeting an oil rig in the Russian Arctic.
They had faced up to seven years in jail.
Their release is seen as a bid by the Kremlin to quell critics of Russia’s human-rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi this February.
Greenpeace says 29 of the 30 activists, who are still in Russia after being freed on bail, have now been granted amnesty and will be free to leave for their home countries as soon as they secure exit visas.
One more activist’s case will be reviewed on Thursday, it said.
The Canadians were in custody for two months along with fellow activists before they were released in November pending trial.
Russia’s treatment of the activists – who spent two months in detention and had faced hooliganism charges punishable by seven years in jail – had drawn heavy criticism from Western nations and celebrities.
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for since our ship was boarded by armed commandos almost three months ago,” Peter Willcox, who captained the Greenpeace vessel used in the protest, the Arctic Sunrise, said in a statement.
“I’m pleased and relieved the charges have been dropped, but we should not have been charged at all.”
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s response to a Greenpeace protest should serve as a lesson and Moscow would take tougher steps to guard against interference in its development of the region.
Russia says activists endangered lives and property in the protest at the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, a key element of Russia’s plans to develop the Arctic.