Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has pardoned 27 convicts serving prison terms, in keeping with what has become a yearly tradition for the Russian president at Christmas, according to a statement on the government’s official legal online portal.
Medvedev, who has made the liberalization of Russia’s justice system one of his priorities as president, pardoned 21 prisoners convicted of minor crimes last year, while the figure stood at 28 in 2009, the year after Medvedev replaced Vladimir Putin as the country’s president.
Putin’s presidential term saw a gradual decrease in Christmas pardons from 187 in 2003, none were pardoned at all in 2007. In 2008, Putin’s last year as president, only one person was pardoned.
Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin used to pardon thousands of convicts every year in the 1990s.
In an interview with heads of the country’s three main TV channels in December 2009, Medvedev criticized the severity of punishment for petty crimes routinely ordered by Russian courts, prompting a series of amendments replacing criminal charges with administrative punishment such as fines and compulsory public works for some minor offences.