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Greenpeace activist to spend Christmas in Rus -

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ELEANOR HALL: Heading overseas now, the Australian Greenpeace activist who has been locked up in Russia since September will spend Christmas and beyond in a St Petersburg jail.

Russian security forces seized 59-year-old Colin Russell and 29 other activists at gunpoint as they protested against oil drilling in the Arctic.

Europe correspondent, Phil Williams has the latest.

(Sound of people arriving in court)

PHILIP WILLIAMS: In a cramped room at St Petersburgs Primorsky Court, the Greenpeace ship's radio operator was led handcuffed into a small metal cage.

COLIN RUSSELL: My name is Colin Russell.

WOMAN: Russell, Colin.

COLIN RUSSELL: That's correct.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: He and the others knew he would not be welcomed by the Russian authorities when they attempted a classic Greenpeace action on a Russian drilling rig to try and highlight the dangers of polluting a pristine environment.

COLIN RUSSELL: I don't understand the reasons why I'm being detained. It's, I've done two months of hard time for nothing and I've done nothing wrong.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: After weeks in solitary confinement in a Murmansk jail, the Greenpeace 30 were moved to St Petersburg. This was the chance to at least be allowed out on bail or confined to a hotel pending a proper court case.

COLIN RUSSELL: I believe under Russian federation constitution I should have a right to know what I'm accused of and I should have a right of legal advice within 48 hours of that. And I said this in the previous court hearing and you seemed to choose to not stick or standby own Russian constitution. So I say that my human rights have been violated very, very wrongly and badly.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: The arrests and continued detentions have sparked international condemnation All 30 had their original charges downgraded from piracy to hooliganism, but that still carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

(Sound of judge speaking)

PHILIP WILLIAMS: But instead of being released, Colin Russell was told by the judge that his detention will be extended by three months until the 24th of February because of fears he may abscond.

COLIN RUSSELL: I do not see any way I could hinder their investigation. If they actually came and spoke to me, maybe I could help them. But I have not spoken to anyone yet. So I'm not sure how they come to any conclusions about anything, because I've not been asked anything yet.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: So it was back to prison. Colin Russell will not be home for Christmas.

COLIN RUSSELL: Bye bye everybody.

(Sound of people cheering)

PHILIP WILLIAMS: His family wait for more news at their Tasmanian home. Colin Russell waits in his St Petersburg cell.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: This is Philip Williams reporting for The World Today.