The Russian authorities will likely not allow the foreign crewmembers of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with their families in their home countries, Ivan Blokov, programs director of the Russian division of Greenpeace, told Interfax on Monday.

"There are absolutely no indications that they will be allowed to leave. On the contrary, investigative actions are planned for this coming week," Blokov said.

"There is a very strange answer from the Investigations Committee that it's not its area of interest. Simultaneously, the migration service is telling the media that it needs requests from the Investigations Committee to issue visas," a Greenpeace representative said, commenting on the possibility of the Arctic Sunrise crew being issued visas.

Greenpeace lawyer Andrei Suchkov told Interfax last week that the Investigations Committee had declined to authorize the issuance of visas to enable an Arctic Sunrise crewmember to leave Russia.

The Federal Migration Service's Department for St. Petersburg earlier reported that it can only issue transit visas to the foreign activists with the approval of the investigators.

Tatyana Vasilyeva, press officer for the Russian office of Greenpeace, told Interfax in early December that the foreign members of the Arctic Sunrise crew had requested that the Russian authorities issue them visas so that they could leave Russia.

Vasilyeva said the foreign members of the crew (26 people from 17 countries) had received their passports back. "However, they do not have visas to leave Russia. They are still in a hotel in St. Petersburg," she said.

The Arctic Sunrise crewmembers have now been released on bail and are now in St. Petersburg. "Of course, St. Petersburg is a beautiful city, but it's not a home city for everyone. They all would like to celebrate the holidays at home with their families, with their relatives," Greenpeace lawyer Anton Beneslavsky earlier told Interfax.

The Russian Coast Guard stopped the Arctic Sunrise vessel operated by Greenpeace in the Pechora Sea on September 19 after some environmentalists attempted to protest against oil extraction on the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform. The Arctic Sunrise was towed to Murmansk on September 24. It was carrying a crew composed of thirty citizens of several countries, including three Russian citizens.

The environmentalists were accused of piracy and sentenced to two months in custody. The Investigations Committee later reclassified their actions as hooliganism. Initially, all detainees were kept in detention facilities in Murmansk. They were transferred to St. Petersburg on November 12.

On November 18-28, St. Petersburg courts released the Arctic Sunrise crewmembers on a two-million-ruble ($60,500) bail each.

Sergei Tsyplenkov, the head of the Russian office of Greenpeace, earlier said that the environmentalists intended to put a banner on the oilrig to draw public attention to issues relating to the protection of environment in the Arctic. The Russian authorities called the protest a deliberate act of provocation.

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