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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Put Amnesty on Agenda

Free market reformers and Communists found rare common ground in Russia's State Duma on Friday, placing on the agenda an amnesty for prisoners convicted of both political and economic crimes.

The amnesty, placed on the agenda but not voted into effect, could free the alleged coup plotters of August 1991, as well as the accused leaders of a parliament rebellion last October.

Yeltsin prompted Friday's debate by proposing an amnesty for petty criminals in honor of the new charter.

But deputies of the Russia's Choice bloc agreed to vote for the political amnesty as well, after the proposal was widened to include businessmen convicted of Soviet-era economic crimes.

Outside the Duma, a few business lobbyists braved freezing temperatures Friday to agitate for the release of their fellow businessmen, jailed for such crimes as illegal currency transactions or dissipating state property.

Under Soviet law, the importance of state property was primary and so-called economic crimes that harmed the public wealth were not tolerated.

"I cannot recall a single amnesty that included 'economic crimes,'" said Vladimir Zimonenko, spokesman for the Justice Ministry.

Along with Viktor Sokirko, chairman of the Society for the Defense of Convicted Businessmen and Economic Freedoms, the group outside the Duma performed a symbolic crime: Borovoi drew out a dollar bill and sold it to Sokirko for 1,000 rubles.

By not paying a tax and ignoring the Central Bank's dollar rate, the two of them became criminals under present law, Borovoi said.

"In our country, entrepreneurs continue to be criminals," he said, "and do not qualify for an amnesty, unlike murderers, rapists, robbers etc.

"They feed us, so set them free."

Activists collected signatures on an open letter sent up to the Duma session. The letter called for amnesty for the "economic convicts" convicted under Articles 88 (currency operations), 92 (misuse of state property), 93-1 (theft of state property), 170-175 (bribery and inadequate use of official powers) of the criminal code.