Canadian Greenpeace activists Paul Ruzycki and Alexandre Paul, and the rest of the Arctic 30, could be granted amnesty by the Russian parliament Thursday, Dec. 12.
But Patti Stirling, Ruzycki’s sister, isn’t holding out much hope.
“Certain Russian newspapers say they’ll definitely be released and they’ve seen leaked documents, other papers are saying it won’t happen … it’s too inconsistent,” said Stirling, from her Port Colborne, Ont. home.
The Arctic 30, 28 activists and two freelance journalists, were detained and arrested nearly three months ago for a protest against a Gazprom-owned oil rig in the Pechora Sea.
All 30 were released on bail from various detention centres in St. Petersburg just a couple of weeks ago, but are not being allowed to leave Russia.
They all still face hooliganism charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years.
According to a release, lawyers for Greenpeace International believe the draft text of the amnesty would be unlikely to benefit the activists.
“In its present form, the proposal would apply only to people who have either been convicted of hooliganism, or people who are on trial and will be convicted within the six month period after the amnesty decree is adopted,” the release said.
It also said the Arctic 30 fall into neither category, but could be granted amnesty if the text is only slightly amended.
“As it stands the amnesty text would not include the Arctic 30, but it very nearly does. The Duma (Russian parliament) would only have to make a relatively minor amendment to the text and include people charged with hooliganism whose trial has not yet been scheduled. Then the Arctic 30 could go home. Right now they still face the possibility of trial and conviction for a crime they didn’t commit, and prison sentences that could stretch to many years. The charges against them should of course be dropped, but if the Arctic 30 case can be brought to an end through the amnesty then that would be a welcome development for people who have already spent two months in jail for standing up for their beliefs,” Greenpeace International lawyer Daniel Simons said in the release.
Stirling said if her brother and the others are not granted amnesty, the Russians could see activists’ family members hopping on planes headed for St. Petersburg.
“Everyone has held off for now. When I talked to Paul, he was adamant that we not risk everything by going over there,” she said.
Now on bail, Ruzycki and his fellow activists have all been moved to 1,000-room hotel outside of St. Petersburg. Greenpeace lawyers and support staff are also in the same hotel.
Stirling said the activists travel around in small groups to restaurants and art galleries in the city so they don’t draw too much attention to themselves.
“They’re not marching around as all 30. They’re pretty much left alone.”
She said the family, including brothers Frank and Chris, and sisters Debbie and Kate, talk to Ruzycki nearly every day now.
“It depends on who he can reach.”