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Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 7:20:01 PM
Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 7:21:02 PM
Videographer Kieron Bryan of Britain (R), one of the 30 people who were arrested over a Greenpeace protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, is pictured as he is released on bail from prison in St. Petersburg, November 22, 2013. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Russia on Thursday to show leniency towards 30 people arrested during a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Thirty people arrested in Russia over a protest against Arctic oil drilling will avoid trial and the threat of jail under an amnesty set to be approved by parliament, lawyers and Greenpeace said on Wednesday.
Last-minute changes to the amnesty proposed by President Vladimir Putin mean legal proceedings against the 30 are "almost certain" to end and the 26 non-Russians among them should be able to go home, the environmental group said.
The arrest of the men and women whom Greenpeace call the "Arctic 30" drew criticism from the West and was widely seen as a signal that Putin will not tolerate efforts to stop Russia developing the resource-rich region.
Ending the prosecution would remove one of many irritants in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
Lawyers say two women from punk protest band Pussy Riot are likely to be freed. They are serving two-year sentences for a protest against Putin in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Moscow in 2012.
They are due for release in early March. It is not clear how soon they would walk free once the amnesty is approved.
The "Arctic 30" were arrested after Russian coast guards boarded the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise following a September 18 protest in which some of the activists tried to scale Russia's first offshore oil platform in the Arctic.
They were jailed in stark conditions for two months, have been unable to leave Russia since their release on bail and face up to seven years in prison if tried and convicted of hooliganism.
"I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place," Greenpeace quoted Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Willcox, an American, as saying.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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