Alexandre Paul and Paul Ruzycki, two Canadian Greenpeace activists who were part of a group detained by Russia for more than three months, arrived back in Canada Friday.
Smiling through a heavy beard and flanked by his parents, Paul told reporters gathered at Montreal's Trudeau airport that the experience was not a happy one, but the international attention that it brought to the environmental risks of drilling for oil in the Arctic was worth it.
"This is a hard time for humanity, our survival depends on getting people to care," he said.
Ruzycki, of Port Colborne, Ont. arrived in Toronto, Greenpeace confirmed Friday evening.
Friday marked 100 days since Paul, Ruzycki and 28 others — mainly Greenpeace activists — were arrested in Russia’s Arctic while protesting against offshore oil exploration in the Pechora Sea. Russian military stormed their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, after several Greenpeace activists scaled a Gazprom drilling platform.
The group, now known as the Arctic 30, faced charges of piracy, which carries a possible 15-year prison term in Russia. The charges were later reduced to hooliganism, and then dropped entirely.
The Arctic 30 spent six weeks in jail in Murmansk, a city in Russia’s far northwest. The group was transferred to St. Petersburg in early November.
Russian authorities granted the group amnesty on Dec. 18 and Paul received his exit visa on Dec. 26.
Mixed opinions of Canadian government's role
Paul applauded Canada's consular services in Russia, but said he was disappointed with the Canadian government's response to the situation, in particular that of Foreign Minister John Baird.
Paul said he doubted whether he would have been released had it not been for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the Russian government's desire to avoid more controversy over the detentions.
The fear of prolonged incarceration in Russia and the possibility of not seeing his parents again had weighed on his mind, said Paul.
"Finding out that piracy carries a sentence of up to 15 years, that was the darkest time," he said.