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Putin backs amnesty proposal that could free Pussy Riot members from Russian labor camps

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 12:51 EDT
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Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova waits in the defendant's cage at a courthouse (AFP)
 
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he backed proposals for an amnesty for thousands of prisoners who, according to his rights advisor, could include ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot punks.

“I agree… that such actions must be pacifying, must emphasise the humanity of our state,” Putin said in televised comments.

The amnesty could free up to 100,000 prisoners, said Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the presidential rights council, an independent advisory body, cited by RIA Novosti news agency.

Fedotov told journalists the amnesty could apply to former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot, who held a protest against Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

“I think that yes of course,” Fedotov said, when asked if it could apply to Pussy Riot. “After all that was not a violent crime.”

As for Khodorkovsky, Fedotov said: “I think so, yes.”

Khodorkovsky is set to be freed in August 2014 after spending more than a decade in jail on fraud and tax evasion charges, while Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokyhina are due to be released from penal colonies in March.

However Putin said the amnesty must not apply to those charged with violence against officials, which excludes dozens of protesters charged over crowd violence in May 2012 after his reelection as president.

“I want to say that this amnesty can only apply to those who did not commit serious crimes and crimes involving violence against officials, of course that’s mainly law enforcement officials,” Putin told rights advisors who are proposing the amnesty.

“I will take this as the starting point and will wait for a final document prepared by you together with the parliament,” Putin added.

The amnesty is intended to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Russia’s constitution this year. The lower house of parliament is set to examine a draft proposal before the end of the year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that “the president took the decision that he himself would submit the draft bill on the amnesty”, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia has one of the largest prison populations of any country. As of November its prisons held 681,050 inmates.

The Soviet Union held a mass amnesty of around 1.2 million prisoners, both common criminals and political prisoners, after the death of Stalin in 1953.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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