MOSCOW, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday dropped the piracy charges against 30 people involved in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling, replacing them with lesser charges and cutting the maximum jail sentence they face to seven years from 15 years.
The charges against activists who protested at a Gazprom oil platform off Russia's northern coast last month have been changed from piracy to hooliganism, the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement.
All 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise during the Sept. 18 protest, in which activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya platform, are being held in detention until at least late November.
The Investigative Committee said it had begun the procedure of pressing the new charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The piracy charges were punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison.
At the same time, the Investigative Committee said the investigation was continuing and reiterated that it could still bring additional charges against some of the activists, including the use of force against representatives of the state.
Greenpeace has said the protest was peaceful and that the piracy charges were illegal and absurd. President Vladimir Putin has said the activists were clearly not pirates but that they had violated international law.