Question: What do you think about capital punishment? Will Russia abolish it?
Vladimir Putin: This is a very important issue. As I have already said, I oppose capital punishment.
Question: Will capital punishment be abolished?
Vladimir Putin: At any rate, I will do everything I can to rule out capital punishment.
As you know, it is very easy to score extra points on this issue. Capital punishment is quite popular because an overwhelming majority of Russians are not criminologists. Any expert will tell you that capital punishment is pointless, except for the politician wishing to boost his ratings. The crackdown on crime, a more ambitious objective, implies that capital punishment does not solve this problem. In order to fight crime we must facilitate economic recovery, tackle social problems, eradicate poverty and social inequality, educate the population, and so on. It takes a lot of time and effort to strengthen law-enforcement. It is easier to introduce capital punishment and to draw applause for a while. However, this is absolutely insufficient to cope with crime. Some politicians and political parties will make this their main campaign issue during parliamentary and presidential elections. There is nothing we can do about it. I have no alternative but to explain my position; and I hope that journalists, including your staff, will support me.
Question: What do you think about alternative service?
Vladimir Putin: Firstly, Just like any country, Russia must provide opportunities for alternative service to its citizens. Secondly, no one has the right to speculate on this issue because the relevant legislation has not yet been passed and all spontaneous activity in this sphere violates existing laws and must be dealt with accordingly.
I believe reduced military service is a move in the right direction and is the first step towards establishing a professional army. However, we must calculate the extent to which conscription can be reduced and specific deadlines for doing so.
Question: Are such estimates available?
Vladimir Putin: We are preparing experimental and other estimates in this field. The Defence Ministry has selected a division in the Pskov Region and is trying to calculate contract service costs, the number of contract soldiers, conscripts, housing purchases, and so on. Such estimates must be compared with budgetary potential and economic development forecasts. Any other approach is nothing but empty talk.