10 December 2013, News Wires – Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has submitted proposals to the country’s parliament for a special amnesty that reports have said would include a pardon for the so-called ‘Arctic 30’ protesters.
The Kremlin announced the draft regulations on its website, specifying categories of crime and offender that would fall under the proposed amnesty.
The bill has been submitted to mark Thursday’s 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution.
The deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, Vladimir Vasilyev, said about 25,000 minor offenders would benefit from the amnesty, most of whom were not given prison terms, Russian news agencies said.
He said priority would be given to offenders in vulnerable social categories and people who have served the country in police forces, the army and as prison guards.
About 2000 prisoners would be among that 25,000, as well as almost 6000 who could see charges against them dropped, he said.
The Kremlin’s statement did not specify individuals that could be released under the amnesty.
However several Russian newspapers that said they had seen a draft copy of the full bill said that it would include the release of the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelancers arrested over a protest at an Arctic oil platform, according to news website Russia Today.
Three categories of offences – hooliganism, rioting and incitement to rioting, and violating certain traffic regulations – are specified as an extended measure that would apply to offenders outside the scope of the socially vulnerable and state service categories, the site quoted daily Vedemosti as saying.
The reports said that the pardon would also apply to Russian feminist punk rock protesters Pussy Riot, whose members were arrested over a controversial February 2012 performance in a Moscow cathedral and of whom two members are serving prison sentences for hooliganism.
Some opposition activists involved in disturbances seen in Moscow in May 2012 are also set to be released, while the amnesty would reportedly not to apply to leading anti-Putin campaigner, Alexei Navalny, and the jailed former Yukos oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Greenpeace spokesman Ben Ayliffe said its members “are not getting their hopes up yet”, commenting in a statement: “Until the Duma adopts an amnesty that includes the Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists, everything is speculation.”
Moscow’s lower parliament is dominated by Putin supporters and is expected to approve the amnesty.