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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Victory Day’s Amnesty Cancelled

May 08 2020

Despite numerous initiatives to amnesty prisoners, including political prisoners, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day, commemorating the victory of the Soviet Union and the Allies over Nazi Germany, the State Duma refused to give amnesty this year. Since the 50th anniversary of the Victory Day in 1995, amnesty has been declared every five years. From 1994 to 2015, there were nine big amnesties in Russia (in 2000 more than 200 thousand prisoners were released, in 2015 – there were about 30 thousand).

Back in early December 2019, the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) Valery Fadeev said that by the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, it would be “right” to give amnesty. Later, the Human Rights Council, deputies of the Duma from the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, as well as independent deputies of the Moscow City Duma, proposed their amnesty projects. In March 2020, well-known Russian human rights activists called on the authorities to amnesty as many prisoners as possible in order to prevent the mass infection of COVID-19 in prison.

In early March 2020, State Duma member Sergei Shargunov (Communist Party) introduced his draft of amnesty for the 75th anniversary of the Victory. He, among other things, proposes to amnesty participants of Moscow protests that took place in the summer 2019 amid the denial for independent candidates to run for Moscow City Council. At that time, more than 30 people were convicted for those protests.

Members of the opposition in the Moscow City Duma and many opposition politicians put forward a joint draft of a federal law of amnesty. It proposed the release of all convicts who the Memorial Human Rights Center considered to be political prisoners. There were 611 people on this list, including all convicted for participating in unauthorized rallies and demonstrations last summer.

However, the head of the HRC, Valery Fadeev, commenting about the preparation of amnesty draft in 2020, said that there might not be amnesty at all: “The theme of the amnesty on Victory Day is already gone, there is none. Most likely, there will be no amnesty. The fundamental proposals for amnesty were voiced by members of the HRC in December 2019, but the legislative institutions do not want to carry out this amnesty.” On April 21, 2020, the chairman of the State Duma committee of legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov said that the lower chamber was not preparing a legislation on amnesty for the 75th anniversary of Victory this year.

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