David Cameron is prepared to consider contacting Vladimir Putin directly to raise the "very serious issue" of the six Britons who have been detained in Russia following a Greenpeace protest against oil drilling in the Arctic last month.

The prime minister told parliament he would personally speak to the Russian president if it would help the plight of the detainees, who learnt last week that the authorities had decided to downgrade their charges from piracy to hooliganism.

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