Amnesties mark Russian constitution anniversary

12.12.2013

Voice of Russia UK

The consitution of the Russian Federation was inaugurated 20 years ago on December 12, 2013. To mark the date, the Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a large scale amnesty that could free Greenpeace Arctic campaigners and members of the Pussy Riot band among others. VoR’s Dasha Chernyshova reports.

Over 20,000 people might be granted amnesty on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution.

The draft resolution on declaring amnesty has been proposed by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and submitted to the State Duma.

The document suggests freeing the least socially-protected categories of convicted offenders, people who committed crimes as minors, women with dependent children, pregnant women, women over 55 years of age and men over 60 years old, as well as many others.

Those categories may include two members of the Pussy Riot band and Green Peace campaigners. Russia’s State Duma will have until the end of December to decide. It’s all part of commemorating the 20th the anniversary of the Russian Constitution.

60 percent of Russians approved the new fundamental law for the country on December 12th in a public referendum in 1993, as the Soviet Union went through the transition towards democracy.

The fundamental law was drafted on the basis of French and American constitutions and appears to meet international standards.

Andrey Goltsblat, a managing partner of Goltsblat BLP, says: “I do believe the Russian Constitution fits into the international standards and international definition of democracy. It empowered the president rather than parliament. But the US president is very strong as well. It is just the way it’s been drafted and passed through the referendum.”

Since 1993 Russia’s constitution has been amended several times.

The majority of the changes were related to administrative structure of the country, and most recently there were constitutional amendments extending the terms of the State Duma to five years, and presidential terms in from four years to six.

But no changes have been made to the first two chapters that deal with fundamental principles.

Vladimir Shumeiko, one of the forefathers of the Constitution, says: “No amendments could be made to Chapter 1 or Chapter 2, because they are made only through a public referendum. The amendments made to the Russian Constitution to date do not touch upon the fundamentals of our main law. It is important that we value the Constitution and such attitude should be preserved.”

The constitution is not only a fundamental law, but also sets guidelines of Russia’s morality.

Its preamble proclaims the unity of Russia’s multinational society and strive to ensure the well‐being and prosperity of the country and its peoples.

“The preamble is the moral law of our country. When I look at the events unfolding in the country, I always compare it with the preamble – whether the events go along or run counter. So far everything goes the same way as the preamble states. By the way, it took more time to write the preamble rather than the constitution’s text, because it is at the core of our moral,” says Vladimir Shumeiko.

Russia has a tradition of granting amnesty on memorable dates, and the day of constitution, is one such appropriate occasion.

Author of the article: Dasha Chernyshova

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