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Russia Says It's Too Early to Abolish Death Penalty

Strasbourg, France June 27 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe, Vladimir Lukin, says Russia is gradually reducing the number of crimes punishable by death. But he said the Russian public would not yet accept outright abolition of the death penalty because of fears of crime.

Lukin, a member of the Yabloko faction in the Russian Duma, told a press conference at the Coucil of Europe in Strasbourg France today that the death penalty is being replaced by life imprisonment in many Russian laws. He said Russia must move toward the abolition of the death penalty slowly because of public opposition.

He said Russia will abolish capital punishment -- but in his words, "when and how is hard to say at this point."

When Russia joined the Council of Europe, a pro-democracy human rights body, at the end of February, it pledged to abolish capital punishment. The council's parliamentary assembly is set to debate the issue tomorrow and many former communist countries of central and Eastern Europe are expected to come under criticism for their reluctance to do away with the death penalty.