Shortly after a U.N.-mandated tribunal ordered Russia to immediately release a Greenpeace ship and its crew in return for a $5 million bond on Friday, Moscow issued a statement saying the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case.
The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled Friday that "the Russian Federation shall immediately release the vessel Arctic Sunrise and all persons who have been detained upon the posting of a bond or other financial security by the Netherlands." Reuters first reported on the statement from Russia's Foreign Ministry.
The tribunal also ordered Russia to allow the vessel and those detained and initially charged with piracy but the charge was changed to hooliganism to leave the country. Those detained can face seven years in prison.
Thirty people aboard a Greenpeace ship were detained when the Arctic Sunrise was seized by the Russian coast guard after a protest near a Gazprom-owned oil rig on Sept. 18.
Most of them have already been ordered released on bail. However, Russia's Federal Migration Service issued a statement saying that those granted bail can't leave Russia until the criminal probe against them is over.
One of those released included the ship's U.S. captain, Peter Wilcox.
But the state ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a well-connected Russian lawyer, Genri Reznik, as saying that the law doesn't ban them from leaving Russia pending their trial. He added that charges against them will likely be dropped under an upcoming amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution.
Greenpeace will "continue to keep up public pressure to get them released," its leader Kumi Naidoo said in Warsaw, where Greenpeace was an observer at U.N. climate talks.
"They have been through a very, very tough time. The prison experience has been extremely challenging for them to endure," Naidoo told The Associated Press.
The 30 were arrested in September after the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, entered Arctic waters. Some of the activists tried to scale an offshore drilling platform owned by the state natural gas giant Gazprom.
Greenpeace contends Arctic drilling poses potentially catastrophic environmental dangers, while Russia bristles at any criticism of its oil and gas industry, which is the backbone of the country's economy.
President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that while Greenpeace activists were pursuing noble goals, they were wrong in trying to scale the platform because they jeopardized its safety.
"Not all means are good for achieving even noble goals," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report