MONTREAL – The mother of one of two Canadian Greenpeace activists detained in Russia since September says she’s getting a wonderful late Christmas present.
Nicole Paul says her son Alexandre Paul has been cleared to leave the country and is scheduled to touch down in Montreal on Friday afternoon.
“I spoke to him on Christmas and he was in good spirits,” she said. “Now, we’re just hoping for a fresh start and to put this behind us.”
Paul’s fellow Canadian Greenpeace activist — Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont. — was facing a slight delay in his own departure from Russia because his exit visa hadn’t been processed.
Greenpeace said it expected exit visas to be granted by Friday to all those who had been detained.
Ruzycki’s family was hoping to have him back home before the new year.
His sister, Patricia Ruzycki Stirling, said she hasn’t been able to celebrate Christmas while her brother’s ordeal continues.
“We haven’t put decorations or anything,” she said. “It’s not Christmas unless he’s with us at the table.”
Stirling remained critical of the federal government’s handling of the situation, which has unfolded over the last three months.
She said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird should have taken a more active role to secure the release of the Canadian activists.
The Canuck pair were among 30 crew members of a Greenpeace ship called the Arctic Sunrise.
They were originally charged with piracy when some of them attempted to scale an offshore drilling platform in the Arctic belonging to Russian state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom.
The charges were later downgraded to hooliganism.
The activists were held in custody for two months before being released in November pending trial. They then had their cases closed this week under a recent amnesty passed by Russian parliament.
The move has been seen by many as part of an attempt by the Kremlin to dampen criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky was also recently released after a decade in prison. And the last two Pussy Riot activists were also pardoned and freed.