Two of the 'Arctic 30' released on bail

Yekaterina Zaspa has become the first of the Arctic 30 to be released on bail, suggesting other auxiliary staff may also be released. Photo / AP
Yekaterina Zaspa has become the first of the Arctic 30 to be released on bail, suggesting other auxiliary staff may also be released. Photo / AP

A Russian court has extended the pre-trial detention of the Australian Greenpeace activist arrested for a protest against Arctic oil drilling, but unexpectedly freed a Russian doctor on bail.

Yekaterina Zaspa, a doctor with Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, became the first of the 30 arrested crew members to be freed pending trial, after two months in detention.

She was released on bail on Monday of two million rubles, Greenpeace said.

The court set the same bail conditions for Russian photographer Denis Sinyakov, who has worked in the past for both Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

The rest of the group, which includes two New Zealanders, remain behind bars.

David Haussmann, from New Zealand, stands in a cage during a court appearance in St Petersburg. Photo / AP
David Haussmann, from New Zealand, stands in a cage during a court appearance in St Petersburg. Photo / AP

Earlier, another Saint Petersburg court extended the pre-trial detention of Australian Colin Russell until February 24, meaning he could remain in jail until Russia is done hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which end on February 23.

The rulings suggest that Russian authorities may free at least some of the ship's auxiliary staff on bail while extending the detention of key activists.

Earlier on Monday the judge at Saint Petersburg's Primorsky court, who heard Russell's case, decided to "leave the pre-trial restrictions unchanged until February 24".

A request for bail or house arrest was denied.

"I love you all. I love everybody," said Russell, 59, after the judge announced her decision. "I am not a criminal," he said in comments released by Greenpeace.

Earlier in the day Russell insisted he was innocent.

"I have spent two months in detention, having done nothing wrong," Russell, looking visibly upset, said from a metal cage in the courtroom.

"I have not committed a crime so I have nothing to run from."

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: "This case is now a circus.

"We will continue to pursue every legal avenue we can, and leave no stone unturned, until each and every one of them is home with their families," he said in a statement.

The two courts were scheduled to rule on the detention of several more activists and freelance journalists, but some of the hearings were postponed until later this week.

One of the activists, Ana Paula Maciels from Brazil, held several placards inside her metal cage on Monday.

"I love Russia but let me go home," read one poster. "Save the Arctic," read another.

Her lawyer urged the judge to think about Russia's international reputation.

"I am calling on the court not to violate the legal norms otherwise no one would come for the Olympics because no one would want to come to a country where law is violated," Sergei Golubok said in court.

- AFP

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