Pristavkin, Former Pardons Chief, Dead at 76

Anatoly Pristavkin, a writer who headed the president's pardons commission throughout the 1990s, died Friday in Moscow. He was 76.

The cause of death was not reported. Pristavkin headed the Presidential Pardons Commission from its creation in 1992 until 2001, when it was abolished by then-President Vladimir Putin.

Under President Boris Yeltsin, the commission, which included human rights activists, met every week to go through files containing the histories of hundreds of people stuck in overcrowded prisons and decided whom to recommend for pardoning.

On the commission's recommendations, more than 70,000 people were pardoned over nine years, Ekho Moskvy radio said Friday. After Putin abolished the commission, the responsibility for pardons was passed to regional governments and the number of pardons dropped. Only 72 people were pardoned in 2004, 42 in 2005, nine in 2006 and none last year, Ekho Moskvy said.

Prime Minister Putin praised Pristavkin on Friday. "Anatoly Ignatyevich lived his life with a high degree of dignity, maintaining a belief in humanitarian ideals and the triumph of justice," Putin said.

Pristavkin, who wrote 26 books, is best known for "A Golden Cloud Spent the Night," published in 1987 and based on the story of his childhood in an orphanage. He was born on Oct. 17, 1931.