Death penalty is the exceptional measure of punishment stipulated by the article 59 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, it is prescribed for perpetration of especially grave crimes trespassing to the person.

The question of cancellation of the moratorium on the death penalty again became actual in Russia. Discussion on the Hamlet's theme "to be or to not be" lasts from the moment of the entry of Russia into the Council of Europe. According to the Charter, within one year a state - member of the Council of Europe is obliged to suspend execution of death sentences, and within three years to abandon delivery of death sentences.

The first president of Russia Boris Yeltsin twice tried to fix the abolition of death penalty legislatively, but both times the State Duma rejected his propositions.

The new burst of debates on death penalty is connected with the recent murder of 19-year-old Alexander Panakov, the grandson of the chairman of the Board of directors of the petroleum company "Lukoil" and his 21-year-old bride Maria Dobrenkova, the daughter of the dean of the sociological faculty of the Moscow State University.

The monstrous crime took place on the eve of the New year, on December 29. As it was found out, the gang of criminals committed the double murder with the purpose to take hold of the automobile Lexus which belonged to Alexander. The cost of such car is about 60 thousand dollars. Homebrew "businessmen" found a buyer who would pay only 15 thousand.

But they failed to realize their plan - the car wasn't started. It had the additional signal system, the so-called "chip" which was in the back pocket of trousers of the owner. The gangsters didn't found this detail.

The employees of law enforcement bodies found out and detained five participants of the crime - Kirill Polesov, Vladimir Losin, Tair Dzhazifov, Vasily Chuvashin and Igor Mukhov. The organizer of the murder - a certain Konstantin Pelivanidis also called Greek - isn't found yet, a federal search for him is declared.

The fathers of the murdered persons, members of the modern Russian elite, having buried their children, insist that Russia should have the opportunity to execute the most dangerous criminals. Two weeks ago, the father of the murdered girl, Vladimir Dobrenkov, wrote an open letter to the president demanding to cancel the moratorium on death penalty. By the way, more than hundred professors of the Moscow high schools officially supported him.

In the current Criminal Code the death penalty is included in the sanctions of five articles: murder under aggravating circumstances (art. 105.2 of the Criminal Code), encroachment on life of state or public figure (art. 277 of the Criminal Code), encroachment on life of person carrying out justice or preliminary investigation (art. 295 of the Criminal Code), encroachment on life of employee of law enforcement bodies (art. 317 of the Criminal Code), genocide (art. 357 of the Criminal Code).

The death penalty is not prescribed to women, to persons who committed crimes in the age up to eighteen years, and to men who reached the age of 65 years to the moment of the delivery of the verdict by the court.

The death penalty by way of the pardon may be replaced with life imprisonment or imprisonment for the term of twenty five years.

The UN commission on human rights many times called all the countries to implement the moratorium on death penalty as a first step on the way to its final abolition. We will remind that today the death penalty is abolished in 76 countries; in 86 states, including the USA, China, Yugoslavia, Kirghizia, Cuba, Japan, it remains.

In 20 countries more, though the death penalty officially is not abolished, no criminal was executed for the last ten years. Turkey - one of these states - this year plans to abolish the death penalty. The head of Turkish government Mesut Yilmaz expressed hope that the regulations about the death penalty would be withdrawn from the legislation during debates in the parliament on the project of the new criminal code of Turkey. From the middle of 1980s, no death sentence was executed in this country.

In Russia the death penalty is applied rather seldom lately, for example, in 1961, 2159 death sentences were prescribed, in 1994 - 137, in 1995 - 143, in 1996 - 153, more than 90 % condemned were pardoned.

It is necessary to remind once again that now in Russia the moratorium on execution of death sentences is implemented. Besides, according to the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, until the juries are introduced in all the territory of the country, criminal courts have not the right to prescribe death sentences. According to the new edition of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the introduction of the institute of juries in Russia should take place by January 1, 2003, after that the procedural interdiction on prescription of death sentences will be removed.

The State Duma plans to examine the amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in the first reading in March of this year. The presidential bill provides replacement of the exceptional measure of punishment - death penalty - by life imprisonment.

The URF faction is going to vote solidarily for adoption of amendments introduced by the president. But according to the deputy head of the faction Boris Nadezhdin, in view of the position of a significant part of deputies ("People's Deputy", the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, "Regions of Russia") it is impossible to assert with full certainty that the bill will pass.

As the co-chairman of the URF Irina Khakamada noted, "the people is pumped, and the public opinion is not ready to abolish the death penalty. It is believed that the unique way to punish criminals is the death penalty". Having added that the "rightists" lack political authority, Khakamada addressed to human rights activists asking them to create a positive image of abolition of death penalty in order to prove that it is a "murder committed by the state".

But for the present, as the data of sociological polls among adult population, in particular in Moscow, show, the overwhelming majority of the questioned muscovites spoke in favour of cancellation of the moratorium on death penalty.

During the monitoring carried out by the scientific research Institute of the Moscow Humanitarian and Social Academy, 550 respondents were questioned in the capital. Additionally 78 employees of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and 27 former prisoners were questioned as experts.

The poll showed that the overwhelming majority of muscovites - 89 % - oppose the abolition of death penalty for the persons who committed especially grave crimes. Moreover, 96 % of the questioned employees of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and 100 % of former "convicts" also spoke against the abolition of death penalty.

However, during the poll some employees of the Ministry for Internal Affairs expressed their fear that, taking into account the corruption and unconscientiousness of separate judges, innocent people may be sentenced to death penalty.