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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Amnesty Decree Is Published

The amnesty set to release leaders of last October's violent White House uprising went to press Friday, clearing the way for President Boris Yeltsin's most virulent political opponents to walk free.


Public prosecutors have told defense lawyers that if the parliament-approved amnesty is published in the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta, then the rebel leaders will be released Saturday morning after agreeing to the text.


But many top officials remained unclear Friday as to how the amnesty process would work, while complications delaying the release remained possible.


Top editors at Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government daily, confirmed that the resolution would appear in the Saturday paper.


"This issue of the newspaper will practically determine the fate of the accused," said Rossiiskaya Gazeta's deputy managing editor Leonid Kravchenko.


The amnesty, approved by parliament Wednesday, allows the leaders of last year's White House uprising, in which 147 people were killed, to go free without trial and has drawn a bitter reaction from supporters of President Boris Yeltsin.


Among those likely to benefit from the amnesty are former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, the speaker of the former parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov, hardline Communist Albert Makashov, and the neo-Nazi leader Alexander Barkashov.


Also included in the amnesty are the 12 defendants in the trial of the alleged August 1991 coup plotters and 11 people charged with taking part in riots last May 1 that left a policeman dead and over 500 people wounded. None of these people are in prison, however.


An unknown number of economic and other petty criminals are also expected to be released.


Many Yeltsin supporters fear that freeing Rutskoi and other White House leaders could strengthen the president's opposition and lead to further political instability.


Despite expectations of a Saturday release, lawyers, politicians, and other government officials said they were mystified by the workings of the amnesty process. Many cautioned that red tape or 11th hour presidential intervention could keep the prison cells locked for some time to come.


The case of General Colonel Makashov is a case study in unexplained delay. A Moscow district court on Thursday ordered his immediate release, but as of late Friday he was still in jail.


"I made the decision to free Makashov yesterday, but why it hasn't been fulfilled, I do not know," said Judge Pyotr Stupin, whose district court oversees Lefortovo Prison. "I decided to release him from detention because he was granted amnesty."


Rossiiskiye Vesti, a government newspaper that recently declared its independence, printed the amnesty text in some early editions of its Friday issue, but later removed it.


During a Saturday morning meeting at Lefortovo, investigators into the October uprising will ask the defendants to read the amnesty and agree with its text, calling off legal proceedings against all those involved in the three-week stand off.