Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 22

Russian politicians have reacted in varying ways to criticism by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) over Moscow’s failure to abolish the death penalty. Moscow had committed to ending capital punishment last year when it joined the Council. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other government officials said the criticism was justified. Russia will adhere to its pledge, Chernomyrdin said yesterday: "Since we signed it, we shall keep to it." (Itar-Tass, January 30) Anatoli Pristavkin, who heads the commission that advises President Yeltsin on pardoning those sentenced to capital punishment, said the PACE reminder was "harsh but necessary." It is in Russia’s own interests, Pristavkin said, to bring its legislation in line with European norms and to "stop killing people." (Itar-Tass, January 30)

But Pristavkin was not optimistic. He said the Russian parliament has put the issue on its agenda but that few parliamentarians are enthusiastic about abolition. The Russian nationalist parliamentarian Aleksei Podberezkin, who is the eminence grise of Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov, typifies this attitude. He said the Council of Europe was just looking for a pretext to pick on Russia. He said he was reminded of "the situation with the dissidents in the 1970s, when a major international problem was blown up over the emigration from the USSR of a few tens of human rights activists." (Itar-Tass, January 30)

Defense Council Secretary Completes Far Eastern Inspection.