Bailed Greenpeace activist tells the Mail he is top of his children's present list

Oxford Mail: Phil Ball in St Petersburg Phil Ball in St Petersburg

HE spent two months confined in a Russian prison cell without being able to speak to his family and living off “wallpaper paste” porridge.

And while Greenpeace activist Phil Ball has been released on bail from the jail in Murmansk, the 42-year-old from Chipping Norton is facing Christmas away from his loved ones.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail from St Petersburg, Mr Ball, who was the last of the British Greenpeace activitsts to be granted bail on November 22, spoke of his “depressing” time behind bars.

And he has said how much he misses life in the West Oxfordshire village along with his partner and three children.

Mr Ball, who is a cameraman, said: “Just having some extra amount of freedom and not being locked up for 23 hours a day is quite dramatic. It was pretty grim. For the first week and a half there wasn’t one mouthful of food that I ate that didn’t cause me to gag.

“The level of support I was getting kept me going. I was getting letters from friends and family, from people down the street and from people I have never met.

“We would be woken up at about 6am but my phone and watch were taken from me. We would get this porridge which was more like wallpaper paste and the lights were on for 24 hours a day.

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“For exercise we were taken to this yard which was like a big cattle shed divided into pens with a caged roof which was very grim to look at.”

Mr Ball, who grew up in Chipping Norton and attended The Marlborough School in Woodstock, was detained on September with 29 other Greenpeace activists after Russian troops boarded their ship the Arctic Sunrise.

The soldiers came on board after four Greenpeace members tried to board a Russian oil platform to protest about drilling in the Arctic.

Earlier this month the so-called “Arctic 30” – who face charges of hooliganism – were granted bail and are now living in a hotel in St Petersburg while they await their next court date.

Mr Ball, who lives in Milton-under-Wychwood, said that since leaving prison he has been in touch with his partner and their three children by Skype but insists he wants to keep them out of the media.

He said: “The top of my children’s Christmas list is ‘daddy’, which brought quite a lump to my throat.

“The main thing I missed was the contact with my family. It was really awful. I have never been away from my family for that long before. I miss walks in the fields near my home and mucking about with my children on the river.

“It is a lovely area and that is where my roots are. I am very keen to get back home and spend time with my family.

“I'm so grateful for the massive level of support from local people who have helped my family while I have been away, from cooking meals for them to helping out around the house.”

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