First of the Arctic 30 leaves Russia
St Petersburg, 26 December 2013 - The Arctic 30 are leaving Russia. Swedish activist Dima Litvinov is on a train and heading for the border. He will enter Finland at 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT).
Fourteen of the Arctic 30 were given exit stamps in their passports today, the rest will be given their stamps tomorrow. The non-Russians will all leave the country in the coming days, many of themtomorrow. They will soon be back with their families.
Before taking his seat on the train, Dima said:
“I’ve never regretted what we did, not once, not in prison and definitely not now. Sometimes you just have to stand up and ask to be counted, and that’s what we did in the Arctic. They didn’t throw us in jail for what we did, they locked us up because of what we stood for. The Arctic oil companies are scared of dissent, and they should be. They may have celebrated when our ship was seized, but our imprisonment has been a disaster for them. The movement to save the Arctic is marching now. Our freedom is the start of something, not the end. This is only the beginning.”
“We’ve been blessed with support from so many people, and I want to thank everybody who took time to help us, and that includes people in the remarkable beautiful country where I have been held these past months. Now I’m going home to my bed, my wife, my kids and my life. I’m leaving Russia feeling like we won something here. But while the campaign to free us can claim victory, the campaign to save the Arctic can’t, not yet. The oil companies are moving north, the world’s climate is changing, the biggest struggles still lie ahead of us.”
Dima is the fourth generation of his family to be imprisoned for political activity. His great-grandfather Maxim Litvinov opposed Tsar Nichols II before being made Soviet foreign minister. His grandfather Lev Kopelev was imprisoned by Stalin for 10 years for opposing the regime and speaking out against Soviet atrocities against German civilians in World War Two. Lev was imprisoned with his friend Alexander Solzhenitsyn and was the inspiration for the main character in Solzhenitsyn’s novel First Circle. In 1968 Dima’s father Pavel Litvinov was one of seven people who protested against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in Red Square, an act of defiance for which he was sentenced to internal exile in Siberia when Dima was 6. The family left Russia when he was 11.
“I’m leaving Russia again, and like that day 39 years ago I don’t know if I will ever be able to return,” said Dima.
The Arctic 30 were seized by armed commandos in international waters on September 19 after attempting to attach a banner to an Arctic oil platform operated by Gazprom. They were granted amnesty by the Duma (Russian parliament) following a global campaign to free them. They were unable to leave Russia until the authorities gave them the correct exit visas in their passports.