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Russia passes amnesty bill; questions remain

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 18, 2013 at 11:01 a.m.

MOSCOW — Russia's parliament on Wednesday passed an amnesty bill that will likely apply to the 30-member crew of a Greenpeace ship detained after an Arctic protest, but it wasn't immediately clear whether and when the activists would be allowed to leave the country.

The amnesty, which also would likely free the two jailed members of a punk band, has been largely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human-rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year. But opposition lawmakers argued it doesn't go nearly far enough and the complicated legislation appeared to leave many questions open.

The State Duma on Wednesday voted 446-0 in favor of the carefully tailored bill, which mostly applies to those who haven't committed violent crimes, first-time offenders, minors and women with small children. Lawmakers said they expect about 2,000 people to be released from jail.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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