LONDON -- A British video journalist jailed in Russia alongside Greenpeace protesters he was filming was released on bail Friday amid indications that many of the detained activists would be freed after two months behind bars.
Kieron Bryan was among 30 people arrested by Russian authorities during a Greenpeace protest against an Arctic offshore oil rig in September. Their long detention, some of it in squalid conditions, has sparked outrage and spurred an international campaign for their release.
Bryan’s arrest was particularly tricky for Moscow, which has been accused of harassing a journalist in addition to cracking down harshly on environmental activists just as Russia is gearing up to showcase itself as host of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Bryan was released from a St. Petersburg jail Friday morning along with a number of activists, including the American captain of the protest ship, Peter Willcox, and two British activists, Anthony Perrett and Alex Harris.
"I feel like I'm down out of the tree but still in the forest," Willcox said. "But it's a big step."
“It’s good to be outside and see the sky for the first time for a while,” Bryan told reporters. “Everyone who supported me and the rest of the group, keep fighting, we’re not free yet. This is the first step. It’s a glimmer of justice, but it’s not finished.”
The activists hail from several continents, including North and South America, Australia and Europe. Originally accused of piracy, they now face charges of hooliganism.
Most have recently been granted bail. It remains unclear whether they will be allowed to leave Russia and whether authorities intend to pursue prosecution.
Bryan said his long stint in jail had been “really tough.”
“More than anything, it’s the isolation, not being able to speak to anyone, not being able to speak your common language,” he said, looking happy and relieved. “Being trapped in a cell for 23 hours a day is something I don’t ever want to experience again.
“My plans now are going to a hotel and have a long shower, leave my room whenever I want, never do another Sudoku puzzle again and speak to my family.”
Harris said being confined in a cell by herself was frightening.
"I’m so happy. I never thought this day would come," she said. "It was nerve-racking just not knowing what was going on."