When asked to comment on their case at a meeting with Russian writers, publishers, critics and booksellers, Putin said that not every noble cause can justify any means.
"Were they pursuing a noble cause? Yes. Were they right to scale the platform? No,” the Russian president said. "But of course, the state should show clemency.”
In September, the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker carrying a group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two reporters approached an Arctic Sea oil platform owned by an affiliate of Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom.
The ship and its international crew were detained after some of the activists tried to scale the platform in protest against offshore drilling in the Arctic, which the environmental group says could have devastating consequences for the region’s fragile ecosystem. They were initially charged with piracy, but that charge was later downgraded to hooliganism.
A court in the northern city of Murmansk rejected Greenpeace's appeal Thursday over the arrest of the icebreaker.
By the time court hearings were over on Thursday afternoon, 26 of the 30 Greenpeace detainees had been granted bail and 11 of those had been released, the environmental organization said.
On Wednesday, Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel, a 31-year-old biologist from Brazil, became the first Arctic Sunrise crew member to be released.
Three Russians – Yekaterina Zaspa, Denis Sinyakov and Andrei Allakhverdov – as well as seven other crew members from New Zealand, France, Italy, Finland, Poland, Argentina and Denmark were released Thursday after bail was posted for them.
More bail hearings are scheduled for Friday.