In a rare and unusual occurrence, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned some famous political prisoners. Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is considered a political rival of Putin, spent about a decade in prison on what many considered to be politically motivated charges. He was released last week.
It is worth mentioning that the sudden amnesty letter did not include freeing Khodorkovsky alone. It included a number of prominent figures, including two singers from the Pussy Riot band and 30 Greenpeace activists who were jailed after protesting against oil drilling in an area of the north pole.
The pardon was a huge surprise but many considered that Putin’s act came within the context of improving Russia’s image before the 2014 winter Olympics kick off in Sochi in February. However, the Russian government said: “the amnesty came on the occasion of the annual memory of approving the constitution in post-communist Russia in 1993.” After a draft law to release female and children prisoners and all those who committed non-violent acts was passed, Putin issued a pardon for about 20,000 prisoners.
It doesn’t really matter whether the amnesty was granted due to the upcoming Sochi Olympics or for the occasion of the approval of the constitution in 1993. This measure was exceptional and unfamiliar for the Russian government to the point that it will be interesting to look into the reason behind the motive that made Putin make such a decision.
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