Leonid Nikitinsky: A law on drugs that works

7 March 2024

by Leonid Nikitinsky

Source: Novaya Gazeta

After eight months, the Duma suddenly thought to update how it sends persons facing criminal charges to the special military operation zone citing the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure

As TASS reported at 1 PM on March 6, a bill was submitted to the State Duma earlier that day that was “aimed at establishing in the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure a mechanism for exempting from criminal liability persons who have entered into a contract for military service in the Russian Armed Forces during the special military operation.”

To simplify that a little, the bill specifies a procedure for terminating investigations and suspending criminal prosecutions for the majority of minor and medium-severity crimes (where the term is five years or less) for those who have expressed a desire, in Peskov’s words, to “atone for their guilt” by participating in the special military operation. If this desire is expressed at the investigation stage, or if the crime is committed by someone already participating in the special military operation, the case is frozen, so to speak. The individual under investigation can be released from criminal liability — as long as they don’t request the case be taken to court in the future — if they are wounded, if they receive a government award, or if the military operations are concluded, so long as they didn’t desert.

But wasn’t there a law like this that already passed? We wrote about it  last summer, while it was still being introduced in the Duma. So why another one?

Here’s how Pavel Krasheninnikov, chair of the Legislation Committee and Doctor of Law, explained it:

“The law that passed in 2023 provided the opportunity for citizens who committed a crime to enter into a contract to participate in the special military operation and gave them the corresponding guarantees…” However, “the document is temporary in nature… Practice has shown that the mechanism works, and that the proposed norms can be codified in separate articles of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

It’s not always easy to keep up with the Duma’s pace, especially with this mess of a special military operation — and not least because we’re on the outside, as journalists with no special advisors, like the deputies have. But all the while, probably hundreds of persons under investigation have already been sent to take part in the special military operation under the June 24, 2023, Federal Law No. 270, “On the Particularities of Criminal Liability of Persons Involved in a Special Military Operation.” Some of them have already been pardoned, if not…

I hate to talk about the bad stuff. Let’s talk about legislative technique, especially since this bill was introduced not only by Krasheninnikov, but also by Andrei Klishas, also a Doctor of Law. It’s awkward for us laymen to instruct pros like these guys, but really the amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure should have been introduced at the same time as Federal Law No. 270, “On the Particularities…,” eight months ago.

That’s right, if we look through the official Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure databases, the amendments are still not there! We even delayed posting this piece because we had to check again: it was very difficult to believe such a simple explanation.

But it’s a “legal fact.” It also explains the infamous confusion in Krasheninnikov’s interview with TASS. The mechanism was likely “working” perfectly, but what are members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Investigative Committee likely writing to this day in hundreds of rulings to suspend investigations? This isn’t the Duma — in a criminal case there should be clear references to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, not to Federal Law No. 270 “On the Peculiarities…”

They got carried away and forgot…

But, as we predicted in June of last year, this mechanism may have generated its fair share of contracted recruits: the list of Criminal Code articles where this form of “conditional amnesty” doesn’t apply pointedly does not include the most “popular” article, Article 228, concerning the storage and acquisition of narcotics without intention to sell them in “significant” but not large amounts, which is punishable by up to three years. This charge does allow for entering a contract — just to make things easy.

Translated by Nina dePalma

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