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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Amnesty Approved by Deputies in 2nd Reading

The State Duma approved President Vladimir Putin's amnesty plan for Chechen rebels who hand in their weapons in a crucial second reading Wednesday, extending the disarmament deadline by one month but leaving the bill's most controversial provisions intact.

The Duma voted 300-2 with one abstention. The original bill called for amnesty for rebels who have disarmed over the past decade or do so by Aug. 1, and the Duma extended the deadline to Sept. 1.

The amnesty would deny pardon to rebels found to have tried to kill federal police and servicemen -- a clause the Duma did not change Wednesday. Critics said the exception would make the amnesty meaningless, because it could be used to prosecute any insurgent who has taken part in the wars in Chechnya.

"This amnesty will not achieve the result that we would like to achieve," said Aslambek Aslakhanov, a deputy elected from Chechnya. "The idea is for members of illegal armed formations to disarm, and this will not happen. There is no mechanism for their protection."

Aslakhanov proposed several amendments aimed to expand the amnesty, but the Duma rejected them.

The amnesty would not cover foreigners fighting with the insurgents or Russian citizens found to have committed murder, kidnapping, rape or other grave crimes. The Duma also ruled Wednesday that the amnesty would not apply to those who committed acts of genocide.

Human rights activists have pushed for that amendment, saying that some crimes committed by servicemen against civilians could be qualified as genocide and should not be pardoned. The government also has long accused the rebels of committing acts of genocide against ethnic Russians in Chechnya.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, head of the Duma's legal affairs committee, said the courts have not yet received any cases of genocide linked to Chechnya.

A final reading is set for Friday.