Greenpeace activists transferred to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The 30 people arrested following a Greenpeace protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic were transferred to St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Greenpeace International and Russian transport officials said.

A sealed wagon attached to a passenger train transported the group from the northern city of Murmansk to St. Petersburg's Ladozhsky Station, the officials said. While Russia has not given an official reason for the transfer, it comes after widespread international protests over the arrest of the 28 crew members and a Russian photographer and a British videographer who were working for Greenpeace.

St. Petersburg is a more accessible destination for the activists' lawyers and family members than Murmansk, a far-flung city north of the Arctic Circle that gets little light during its long winter. State television said the activists were taken to three detention centers, including the notorious Kresty prison. Built in 1893, Kresty is the oldest detention center in St. Petersburg and many political prisoners have been among its inmates.

The Russian coast guard seized the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, on Sept. 18 and arrested everyone on board after the environmental activists tried to scale an offshore oil rig owned by Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

In late October, Russia's Investigative Committee said it would drop piracy charges, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years. The 30 detainees are now charged with hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Greenpeace says it has received no official information about the piracy charges being dropped.

AP writer Laura Mills contributed to this report from Moscow.

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