Officials in the Kremlin and in parliament have rejected the possibility of a return of the death penalty in Russian after Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in an interview that he saw nothing wrong in it.
Kolokoltsev commented on two recent murders of small girls and said that is some unique cases the death penalty would be society’s normal reaction. The top Russian policeman stressed that this was his personal opinion, not as a politician.
His words, nevertheless, prompted several comments in which officials from the top levels of the legislature and executive assured the public there were no plans to re-introduce the death penalty in Russia.
Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that the president’s position on the issue is established and consistent, and there were no changes to it, adding that in his view Putin was more in favor of a total abolition of the death penalty. Peskov also emphasized that Interior Minister Kolokoltsev was simply sharing his personal opinion on the issue and the media should not distort the news and present this opinion as an official position.
Lower House speaker Sergey Naryshkin told reporters that he was against the return of capital punishment. The head of the State Duma Legislative Committee, Pavel Krasheninnikov, told reporters that although such measure could calm public opinion, it will not get rid of the “root of evil” and therefore should be avoided. “The state should not become a tool for revenge,” Krasheninnikov said, adding that only the unavoidability of punishment can reduce the crime rate, not its cruelty.
Sources in the Prosecutor General’s Office told the press that Russia had obligations to the Council of Europe and therefore the moratorium would remain.
Parliamentarians from opposition factions KPRF and LDPR said that Kolokoltsev’s words were a “positive signal”. Communist MP Aleksandr Kulikov told Kommersant Daily that Russia must understand that its decision to introduce the moratorium on the death penalty was wrong. MP Sergey Ivanov of the Liberal Democratic faction said his party had suggested re-introducing the death penalty for such crimes as underage rape.
The head of the Upper House committee for Security and Defense, Viktor Ozerov told the Interfax news agency that he, as a private person, shared the opinion of Kolokoltsev and the majority of Russian citizens who, in his words, support the return of the death penalty for pre-meditated murder of a large number of people, especially children. Ozerov suggested that Russia must hold a referendum on the issue and act by its result, without considering the position of the Council of Europe.
Russia introduced an indefinite moratorium on the death penalty over 15 years ago as part of its obligations to the Council of Europe, but Russian politicians still regularly use the subject in their debates.
In August last year MP Frants Klintsevich (United Russia) suggested executing those convicted of corruption, paedophilia and war crimes.