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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Moves Forward In Halting Death Penalty

Although Russia still has the death penalty, no one has been executed in a year and President Boris Yeltsin is making strides toward phasing out capital punishment, officials said Monday.

Russia pledged to outlaw the death penalty in January 1996 when it joined the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights organization.

But efforts to ban it were blocked by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, which is dominated by communists and other hardliners opposed to abolishing the death penalty.

Human rights activists say Russia executed 62 prisoners after joining the council.

The last execution took place in August 1996, said Valery Borshchev, a liberal lawmaker and presidential adviser on human rights.

In order to keep Russia's obligations, the president's office has been closely scrutinizing existing death sentences and Yeltsin has granted all appeals for pardons received so far this year, Borshchev said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

The report did not say how many people were pardoned.

Yeltsin also is making another attempt to persuade the Duma to phase out the death penalty.

Under a proposed bill Yeltsin sent to parliament last month, before any death sentence can be carried out it must be approved by the chairman of Russia's Supreme Court, the nation's top prosecutor and the presidential commission for pardons.

Itar-Tass quoted Mikhail Gutsiriyev, the Duma's deputy speaker, as saying the bill appears to have a good chance of passing.

Critics of the death penalty argue that miscarriages of justice are all too frequent.

In the Chikatilo mass murders in Rostov-on-Don, two men were sentenced and one executed for the murders before the true culprit was discovered.