Moscow, December 21 (UNI) President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Rene Van der Linden today expressed the hope that Russia's newly-elected lower house will soon officially abolish the death penalty in the country.
Russia imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in 1996, when it joined the Council of Europe but never formally abolished the sentence after three years as it was required to do.
European parliamentarians have said a state that formally preserves the death sentence as a kind of punishment cannot be part of the Council of Europe.
Russia could take over the PACE presidency in January 21-25 as the organisation is due to hold a regular rotation of the presidency, which should go to Russian senator Mikhail Margelov.
The PACE president, who is on a visit to Moscow, hoped the issue of Mr Margelov's appointment would be resolved by January 21, Ria Novosti reported.
The speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament, the Federation Council, Mr Sergei Mironov said after a meeting with Mr Van der Linden yesterday, that in the opinion of the PACE president they were only a few members against Russia taking up the rotating presidency.
Mr Mironov said the regular rotation of its presidency should go to Mr Margelov as head of the Russian Federation Council's committee for international affairs and leader of PACE's European Democrats faction.
He hoped that the tradition of rotation of the post would continue as otherwise this would trample on democratic principles.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe consists of a number of representatives from each member state. A PACE president is elected each year from among such representatives for a maximum period of three sessions.