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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Petersburg Establishes a Pardons Commission

ST. PETERSBURG -- St. Petersburg has set up a regional pardons commission to consider applications from local prisoners, joining a growing number of regions in fulfilling an order by President Vladimir Putin to create local bodies to replace the disbanded Presidential Pardons Commission.

The new commission created by St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has 19 members, including Alexander Boitsov and Vadim Prokhorov, both law professors at St. Petersburg State University; writers Boris Nikolsky and Andrei Konstantinov; Father Bogdan Soiko of the Nikolo-Bogoyavlensky Cathedral; Vladimir Yeryomenko, a deputy in the St. Petersburg legislative assembly; City Hall representatives Vyacheslav Tenishev and Vladimir Vasilyev; and Nikolai Skatov, director of the Institute for Russian Literature.

"There are about 18,000 potential applicants in St. Petersburg -- 8,000 of those are currently in jails and about 10,000 are on probation," said Vasilyev, who is deputy head of the City Hall media committee.

However, he added, there are no "completed applications" yet, so the commission will deal with organizational questions only when its meets Thursday.

Prison officials said they were aware of the changes but will not officially inform prisoners until the commission issues written instructions on how to apply and an explanation of which categories of prisoners are eligible.

"We have had some inquires, and cases vary. One prisoner, for instance, is unhappy because he got a five-year sentence and another prisoner committed the same crime but only got one year," said Vladimir Kalinichenko, a prisons spokesman. "Our job is to inform [prisoners] of decisions and fulfill them, but the commission must issue its regulations first," he added.

According to Vladimir Spitsnadel, head of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad region prison system, 157 applications were sent to the Presidential Pardons Commission last year from the region. Only two prisoners -- both of them women -- were pardoned, Spitsnadel told Interfax.

According to a decree signed by Putin on Dec. 28 that dissolved the Presidential Pardons Commission, the regional commissions will make their recommendations to the governors. Applications that are approved by the governor will then be passed on to the president.

The agency had no word when Moscow might launch its commission.