Canadian Greenpeace activist Paul Ruzycki freed on bail in Russia

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – A Canadian member of a Greenpeace protest ship who was granted bail by a Russian court on Tuesday has now been released from custody.

Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., was one of six crewmembers freed Friday, along with the U.S. captain of the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise.

They were among 30 people from the ship who were arrested following an anti-oil drilling protest in Arctic waters two months ago.

Another Canadian, Alexandre Paul of Montreal, was granted bail Thursday, but there was no word on when he would be released.

The captain, Peter Willcox, was released from a St. Petersburg prison on Friday along with the others, bringing the total number of those freed to 18 of the 30 people on the ship who had been detained.

All 30 still face hooliganism charges, which carry a sentence of up to seven years. It remained unclear whether the foreigners, who have no Russian visas, would be allowed to leave the country.

“I feel like I’m down out of the tree but still in the forest,” Willcox told journalists. “But it’s a big step.”

Crewmembers Marco Weber of Switzerland, Mannes Ubels and Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands, Anthony Perrett of the United Kingdom and British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan were also released Friday.

Judges this week granted bail, set at two million rubles (US$61,500), to 26 people from the Greenpeace ship. The remaining three detainees are expected to hear their rulings Friday.

The arrests came in mid-September after some of the activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise attempted to scale an offshore drilling platform owned by the state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom.

Greenpeace lawyers are filing an appeal for the release of Australian Colin Russell, who was denied bail on Monday. Photographer Denis Sinyakov, who was released on Thursday, said he believed the decision to grant bail to the detainees came from the top — and Russell, who was the first to face the court, was denied bail simply because the judge hadn’t gotten the signal in time.