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MOSCOW, December 10. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed and sent to the State Duma lower house of parliament a draft decree on amnesty, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. Putin had said previously that the amnesty would not be granted, with some exceptions, to convicted of grave and very grave crimes; amnestied will be convicts with prison terms less than five years or suspected of crimes punishable by prison terms less than five years. Criminal proceedings against seven defendants in the Bolotnaya Square mass riots case, members of the Pussy Riot girls’ punk band and Greenpeace activists may also be terminated.
The Vedomosti newspaper writes that amnesty will be granted to all adolescents aged fewer than 16. It will also be extended to adolescents aged from 16 to 18 who had not served time previously; to women with underage children; pregnant women; severely disabled persons; men over 60 and women over 50. According to Vedomosti, two more amnesty-eligible categories have been added to the initial draft: veterans of combat operations and Chernobyl disaster liquidators.
An exception has been made for three articles of the Russian Criminal Code: the persons convicted and suspected under them will be released and freed from punishment regardless of their age, sex and social status. They are Articles 212, parts 2 and 3 — participation in mass riots and calls to them (maximum punishment — eight years in prison). The Bolontaya Square case defendants fall within this category. Amnesty will be thus granted to nine suspects in the case and will not be granted to the others.
The second exception, Vedomosti stresses, has been made for Article 213 — hooliganism (up to seven years in prison). Thus, members of the Pussy Riot band Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are to be granted early release, as well as all the Greenpeace activists who took part in a protest action in the Arctic: they are now charged with hooliganism, not piracy.
According to the draft decree, the Kommersant daily writes, former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and opposition blogger Alexei Navalny will not be granted the amnesty, because the Russian Criminal Code articles under which they were charged are among the exceptions to which the amnesty will not be extended. Moreover, Khodorkovsky has been convicted twice.
The State Duma may announce the amnesty as early as next week, according to Kommersant. It may happen after the Russian president delivers his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly on December 12. The amnesty is to take effect upon its publication and will last six months. According to leader of the United Russia faction in the Duma Vladimir Vasilyev, the amnesty will be granted to 25,000 people, including 2,000 prisoners.
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