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Greenpeace activists allowed to leave Russia

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December 26, 2013 07:24 AM EST | AP

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Russian authorities on Thursday issued visas to seven of 30 members of a Greenpeace ship crew that allow them to leave the country after dropping criminal charges against them over a protest outside an Arctic oil rig.

Greenpeace said Thursday other foreign members of the crew were expected to get their exit visas soon.

The 30 people were arrested in September following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic and spent two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.

Hooliganism charges against the crew were later dropped after Russia's parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin's to assuage the criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Greenpeace said Anthony Perrett of Britain was the first to get the visa in his passport Thursday.

"This was the final step," Perrett said in a statement released by the group. "I'll be leaving for home in Wales as soon as possible now, extremely proud of what I did three months ago. We took peaceful action to defend a part of the world that is the heartbeat of our climate."