Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 39

Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov met yesterday in Oslo with Leni Fischer, chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to discuss the situation in Chechnya, Russia’s proposed confederation with Belarus, and the use of the death penalty in Russia. (Itar-Tass, February 24) Details were not published, but the Council of Europe has already made it plain that it is losing patience with Russia’s failure to carry out its undertakings regarding the death penalty.

When it joined the Council in February 1996, Russia pledged to halt executions pending total abolition of capital punishment. In 1996, however, Russia carried out 62 executions. Although the last of these was performed six months ago, no moratorium has been announced and Russian courts are continuing to hand down death sentences. Russia’s justice minister says Russia cannot afford to keep condemned criminals in long-term imprisonment, while even relatively liberal Russian deputies such as Yabloko’s Vladimir Lukin are arguing that Russia is a special case: abolition is unrealistic, they say, as long as Russia is suffering from a crime wave (with an estimated 2,000 premeditated murders per year). Now the Council of Europe says that, unless Russia lives up to its word, the powers of Russia’s parliamentary delegation will not be ratified by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly a year from now and Russia’s membership will be suspended. (Ekho Moskvy, January 29; Interfax, January 30)