Russia has granted bail to all but one of 30 Greenpeace crew members detained over an Arctic oil protest, but dismissed a UN court ruling that they should be allowed to leave the country.
Courts in Saint Petersburg have now ordered the release of 29 of the Arctic Sunrise ship’s crew, 28 of whom have been freed already, while one Australian activist, radio operator Colin Russell, had his detention extended until February.
The move came just before an international maritime court ordered Russia to release the Dutch-flagged vessel and its crew on payment of a 3.6-million-euro ($A5.3 million) bond.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in the German port city of Hamburg, also ordered Moscow to allow the detainees to leave the country on receipt of the bond.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo welcomed the ruling, calling it “a historic day”, and saying that the group should be allowed to leave Russia immediately.
But the Russian foreign ministry responded dismissively, saying in a statement that the case “does not fall under the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea”.
The ministry said, however, that it would “definitely study the decision”.
Russian authorities agreed to free the activists after Greenpeace paid a bail sum of two million rubles ($A66,100) for each.
The crew members still face jail terms of up to seven years if found guilty of hooliganism.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia had no desire to exacerbate a situation that has already seen Moscow draw sharp rebukes from several European heads of state.
“I want to assure you the political leadership of Russia has no desire especially to interfere in this process,” Putin told reporters.
“We are not able to interfere in the legal side of this case. We do not have the desire to aggravate anything or to specially detain anyone.”
Russia’s decision to jail the entire Arctic Sunrise crew and charge them with hooliganism prompted calls for their release from leaders including British Prime Minister and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and celebrities such as Madonna and Paul McCartney.
A Russian court on Monday refused bail to Australian radio operator Colin Russell, extending his pre-trial detention until February 24, a day after the end of the Sochi Winter Games hosted by Russia.
It is unclear why Russell had his bail request refused. He is appealing the decision.