President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree yesterday calling for the gradual phasing out of capital punishment. (Interfax, May 16) The move is in line with Russia’s entry into the Council of Europe, which urges its members to outlaw the death penalty. Its implementation will, however, be complicated by the fact that the death penalty is enshrined in Article 20 of the Russian Constitution; abolition will therefore require a two-thirds vote in the Russian parliament. As in many other countries, opinion polls suggest that a majority of the Russian population opposes abolition of the penalty. As a first step, Yeltsin’s decree urges parliament to reduce the range of crimes for which the death penalty would be exacted. The decree also instructs the Interior Ministry (which still oversees the prison service) to take appropriate measures to provide suitable accommodation for prisoners serving life sentences.
Yeltsin Holds Second Meeting with Yavlinsky.