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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 14:19 GMT
Putin speaks out against death penalty
The Duma has shown support for the death penalty
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By Stephen Dalziel
The BBC's Russian Affairs analyst

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken out strongly against lifting the presidential moratorium on the death penalty.

While it is still on Russia's statute book, Mr Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, imposed a moratorium its use in 1996.

There have been loud calls from the public and parliament for its restoration, to deal with the country's serious crime problem.

But Mr Putin said that lifting the moratorium on the death penalty in Russia would be "foolish".

In what was clearly a reprimand to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, he added that such an action would boost "some people's political ratings", but that it would not prevent crime.

Public opinion

The issue of the death penalty in Russia is a thorny one, and the president knows he is treading a narrow path.

Vladimir Putin
Putin wants to protect Russia's membership of the Council of Europe
Last month, members of the Duma overwhelmingly called for the presidential moratorium to be lifted, saying they were speaking for the majority of the population.

If opinion polls on the subject are to be believed, the deputies are correct. Russians bemoan the collapse of law and order in their country since the demise of the Soviet Union.

Perhaps citing the absence of the death penalty as a deterrent is an over-simplification of the matter, but many Russian citizens do draw the conclusion that their country has become more lawless since the death penalty was suspended in August 1996.

But when Russia signed up for membership of the Council of Europe, it agreed to the council's terms, one of which is that member states do not have the death penalty on their statute books.

In speaking out again in defence of the moratorium, Mr Putin is showing that, whilst he's aware of domestic public opinion, he also wants Russia to be a member of the wider international community.

See also:

02 Feb 99 | Europe
Russia suspends death penalty
06 Aug 99 | Europe
Russia ends death penalty
12 Feb 02 | Business
OECD calls for more reform in Russia
30 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Russia
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