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Greenpeace activists arrive in St. Petersburg

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VITNIJA SALDAVA | November 12, 2013 09:30 AM EST | AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The 30 people arrested following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig were transferred to St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Greenpeace International and Russian transport officials said.

A sealed wagon attached to a passenger train transported the group from the northern city of Murmansk to St. Petersburg's Ladozhsky Station, the officials said.

While Russia has not given an official reason for the transfer, it comes after widespread international protests over the arrest of the 28 crew members, and a Russian photographer and a British videographer who were working for Greenpeace.

St. Petersburg is a more accessible destination for the activists' lawyers and family members than Murmansk, a far-flung city north of the Arctic Circle that gets little light during its long winter.

Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said in a statement that the organization did not know which pre-detention center the activists would be taken to in St. Petersburg.

The ship, the "Arctic Sunrise," was seized by the Russian coast guard on Sept. 18 and all crewmembers were arrested after staging a protest outside of an oil rig owned by Russia's Gazprom state energy giant.

In late October, Russia's Investigative Committee said it would drop piracy charges, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years. The 30 detainees are now charged with hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Greenpeace says it has received no official information about the piracy charges being dropped.


AP writer Laura Mills contributed to this report from Moscow.