After 100 days spent mostly in jail in the cities of Murmansk and St. Petersburg, Paul is expected to arrive at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport on Friday afternoon on a connecting flight from Paris.
“It’s a Christmas present. A little late, but a Christmas present nonetheless,” says Nicole Paul, mother of Alexandre Paul.
Paul was released from the SIZO 1 detention centre in St. Petersburg on Nov. 22, but wasn’t able to leave the country until Christmas Day despite having received amnesty over a week ago.
“Amnesty was announced Dec. 18 but it was only yesterday that all the activists appeared before the investigative committee in Russia and they received the official papers confirming that the amnesty applied to them,” says Diego Creimer, spokesman for Greenpeace Canada.
Creimer says that some details regarding amnesty for the Arctic 30 needed to be ironed out at Russian Parliament in Moscow before the final paperwork could be approved.
Nicole Paul says her son finally received the stamp on his exit visa the morning of Dec. 26.
100 days in Russia
Paul was arrested alongside 29 other people on Sept. 19 aboard Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea. The day before, several members of the group had scaled a Gazprom oil platform to protest against drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The group, which has since come to be known as the Arctic 30, faced charges of piracy — a serious offence in Russia that carries with it a possible 15-year prison term if found guilty.
The charges were later reduced to hooliganism, and then dropped entirely.
The group, which includes a second Canadian — Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont. — spent six weeks in jail in Murmansk, a city in the extreme northwest portion of Russia. The group was transferred to St. Petersburg in early November.
The impact of the Arctic 30
Though the ordeal took a toll on her, Nicole Paul says the support network for her son and the other members of the Arctic 30 has been overwhelming.
She says she’s proud of Paul for standing up for his beliefs — and says perhaps she understands better now why he boarded the Arctic Sunrise ship in the first place.
“If ever there was an oil spill like there was in the Gulf [of Mexico], it would be catastrophic to the environment,” she says.
Creimer of Greenpeace Canada says that the positive outcome from the Arctic 30’s lengthy legal saga was worth the struggle.
“I can tell you that four months ago, fewer people than today knew that there were companies drilling for oil in the Arctic,” Creimer says.