Russia's parliament on Wednesday passed an amnesty bill that extends to individuals charged or convicted of hooliganism, including Greenpeace activists who staged a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic and members of feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot.

Twenty-eight crewmembers of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker and two freelance journalists on board the vessel were arrested on Sept. 19, a day after some of the activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil platform - operated by Russian state energy giant Gazprom - in the Barents Sea.

They were jailed for two months before being released on bond pending trial on hooliganism charges and may not leave the country until their legal proceedings have concluded.

The protest will not halt Gazprom's plans to produce oil with the Prirazlomnaya rig in the Arctic, according to the company.

In a statement on its Web site, Greenpeace said "legal proceedings against the 'Arctic 30' are now almost certain to come to an end and the 26 non-Russians will be free to return home to their families as soon as they are given exit visas by the Russian authorities."

But the Arctic Sunrise's captain, American Peter Willcox, one of the suspects expected to be allowed to leave the country, was quoted as saying the news was no cause for celebration.

"There's no amnesty for the Arctic. We may soon be home, but the Arctic remains a fragile global treasure under assault by oil companies and the rising temperatures they're driving. We went there to protest against this madness. We were never the criminals here."

Meanwhile, two jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were convicted on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hate," are expected to be released from prison ahead of schedule.

The two women have already served most of their two-year sentence.

Ekaterina Samutsevich, a third member of the group who took part in the February 2012 protest against President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy at a Moscow cathedral, had earlier been released on a suspended sentence.

The Duma, in its 446-0 vote on Wednesday, approved changes to an amnesty that was proposed by Putin and includes "the most unprotected social sectors" such as minors, pregnant women and mothers whose children are still under the age of 18. EFE