Party leader claims Russians would support capital punishment due to their ‘aggressive nature’ The school shooting in Kerch last week has reignited a public debate on whether Russia should keep its moratorium on the death penalty, which has been in place for over 20 years.

On October 17, a student of a college in Kerch killed 21 people, including 16 fellow students in a gun rampage. Just like many other high-profile crimes in Russia, this was used by proponents of the death penalty to advocate lifting the moratorium. The restoration of capital punishment “is long overdue,” popular TV host Vladimir Solovyev said the next day.

The journalist acknowledged that a profound justice reform would be required in Russia before the moratorium could be lifted, but added that one of the side benefits would be Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe.

This week, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the controversial leader of LDPR party, added his take on the issue in a manner that was not too flattering towards his own voters. He claimed that if a referendum was held on whether Russia needs capital punishment, most people would “sadly vote yes.”

“That is the aggressive nature of our people. We like arresting, hanging and shooting people,” the politician said. He added that the threat of a death penalty would not have stopped the Kerch college shooter, who killed himself after the violent rampage.

The Russian criminal code allows sentencing people to death, but no execution has been carried out since 1997. Russia pledged to get rid of the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe in 1996. However, the Russian parliament never ratified the international treaty that would ban this form of punishment altogether.

Last year, an opinion poll by Levada Center showed that people in Russia remain split on the issue. Some 44 percent said capital punishment should be restored or even applied to more crimes than before the moratorium was imposed; while 41 percent called for maintaining the status quo or finalizing the proposed total ban.

Over the years, the number of proponents for the death penalty in Russia has steadily declined. In 2002, the figures were 68 percent in favor versus 24 percent against, according to the same polling agency. 

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