Life imprisonment in Russia

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Life imprisonment in Russia was introduced on December 17, 1992, by the law 4123-I. Courts could not sentence criminals to life imprisonment at that time. Only those who had been sentenced to death penalty could have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. When the new Criminal Code of Russia was adopted in 1996, life imprisonment became a separate punishment.


Article 57 part 2 of the Criminal Code of Russia forbids women, men that were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense and men that were over the age of 65 at sentencing from being sentenced to life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for a single murder is 25 years, or 30 years for murder with exceptional circumstances (which is for men that are aged 65 and over as well as women). If the offender was below the age of 18 at the time of the offense, the maximum sentence is 10 years' imprisonment.

However, if an male offender commits more than one murder while aged between 18 and 65, the penalty is life imprisonment.

Since 2002 changes have been made in Criminal Code of Russia. Multiple crimes with the same subject and direct object (simply - one article of Criminal Code) are counted as one crime for the sentence (counts separately for each offender), with these exceptions:

  • Crimes committed by minors are counted as the first, but only the final result is taken into the total sentence.
  • If the special object of the crime has changed or de facto never been, its counts as attempt to special subject crime in addition to the committed crime.
  • If the offender neither knows nor sees the special subject, it doesn't count as a special subject crime (but it may be as "regular" crime).

Thus, multiple life sentences are concurrent unless the offender commits a homicide.

Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment are held in maximum security prisons (e.g. VK-240/2 White Swan (prison) in Solikamsk). After 25 years or 30 years (if a male offender is aged 65 years and over), a criminal sentenced to life imprisonment may apply to a court for "conditional early release" (условно-досрочное освобождение) if the prisoner has made no serious violations of prison rules, and has not committed a serious crime during imprisonment, but this can only be for a conviction for a single murder.

Parole, if granted, may carry restrictions, such as that the subject may not change residence, visit certain locations, and so forth. If the criminal commits a new offense, the court may retract the parole. If the application for parole is declined however, a new application can be filed 3 years later.

As life imprisonment was introduced in Russia in 1992 (as a pardon at death penalty replacement), if no changes in law are made, the first prisoners will become eligible for parole in 2017.[citation needed]

As of September 1, 2012 there were 1805 prisoners serving life sentences in Russia.[1]

Crimes punishable with life imprisonment[edit]

According to the Criminal Code of Russia, as of April 5, 2014, the crimes punishable with life imprisonment are:

  • Article 105 part 2 - aggravated murder (i.e. murder of two or more persons, murder of a pregnant woman, murder committed with particular cruelty etc.)
  • Articles 131 part 5 and 132 part 5 - rape or coercive sexual actions committed against a person under 18 years, if the criminal had already been sentenced for a sexual crime against a minor
  • Article 134 part 6 - sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years, if the criminal had already been sentenced for a sexual crime against a minor
  • Article 205 part 3 - act of terrorism committed with intrusion into nuclear energy objects; committed with radioactive materials, sources of radioactive rays, toxic or poisonous materials, dangerous chemical or biological materials; act of terrorism that caused the intended infliction of death
  • Article 206 part 4 - hostage taking that caused the intended infliction of death
  • Article 210 part 4 - organising a criminal community committed by a person occupying the highest position in the criminal hierarchy
  • Article 228.1 part 5 - illegal producing, selling or transmittal of illegal drugs or drug-containing plants in especially big amount
  • Article 229.1 part 4 - illicit trafficking of illegal drugs or drug-containing plants or drug-producing equipment committed by an organised group or in especially big amount or with violence against a person in charge of border or customs control
  • Article 277 - infringement on life of a statesman or a public person with purpose to stop his/her political activity or as an act of revenge for this activity
  • Article 281 part 3 - sabotage that caused the intended infliction of death
  • Article 295 - infringement on life of a person who executes justice
  • Article 317 - infringement on life of a law enforcement official
  • Article 357 - genocide


Life sentence prisoners are taken separately from another prisoners in cells typically of two inmates each, unless he is deemed dangerous to others.

When they are being moved outside of cells to walking cages, they must remain handcuffed, and are also prohibited from lying on their beds at hours which are not their sleeping times. They are allowed to "walk" in special tiny courts one and half hours a day, which are very often just bigger rooms, the largest being seven meters by seven meters. Thus, inmate may spend years without being outside of the building and breathing fresh air.

Most of these conditions are inherited from the conditions in which death row inmates awaited execution in the last years of the Soviet Union.

Presidential pardon[edit]

The president can pardon prisoners by reducing the minimum to and/or granting parole after 17 years.


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