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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sentences to Be Commuted

MOSCOW -- President Boris Yeltsin plans to commute hundreds of death sentences in the next few days, emptying death row and in effect eliminating capital punishment, an official said Monday.

Robert Tsivilev, head of the presidential Pardons Commission, said he expected the president to sign four decrees this week which would commute all Russia's remaining death sentences to lengthy prison terms.

"I hope that in two or three days we will not have a single person left in our country awaiting execution," he said by telephone.

"In practice, Russia will join those countries that do not have the death penalty. I think this is a big step in the direction of democracy and civilization for our country."

Tsivilev, who took over the Pardons Commission last October, said the president had already commuted the sentences of about 400 of the 716 prisoners on death row at the beginning of the year. The decrees commuting the rest were written and awaiting Yeltsin's signature, he said.

The sudden upsurge in pardons followed years of little action against capital punishment.

In 1996, Yeltsin placed a moratorium on executions as part of Russia's bid to join the Council of Europe, which forbids member states to execute prisoners in peace time.