This group had little in common with the Russian intelligence officers accused of selling state secrets to the CIA, and that might have been the point. Pardoning the seemingly random convicts along with the higher-profile group seemed to be an important tactical maneuver by the Kremlin to play down the spy incident and deflect accusations that the law was being applied selectively.Article 71 of the Russian constitution grants the president has the power to pardon citizens who appeal to him. Boris Yeltsin employed a panel of "rights activists and independent lawyers" to recommended cases for clemency and granted about 50,000 such requests. But Vladimir Putin abandoned the use of the panel in 2001.
"This was the president showing that he is ready to pardon not only under extraordinary circumstances but is also willing to exercise his constitutional power," said Alexey Makarkin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technologies. "It was designed to show that any Russian can count on this option, not just a person for whom the U.S. asks."
According to the story, pardons continue to be granted, But they are generally given to people who "have admitted guilt, served most of their sentence, exhibited good behavior or are somehow exceptional -- a mother of many children, say, or a veteran." Lev Ponomaryov, a human rights activist says, "This is done on a regular basis. It is a necessary and important practice."
By our count, Medvedev has pardoned almost 60 people. To date, President Obama has yet to grant a single pardon or commutation of sentence. See complete Washington Post story here.