Both amnesty and pardon are a full or a partial exemption from criminal responsibility, which implies cancelling or lightening the penalty and expunging of the criminal record. Nevertheless, there are a few differences between them.


  • is issued by the State Duma with respect to an indefinite set of people: those amnestied are not listed by name;
  • is already possible starting from the moment the criminal proceedings are initiated;
  • does not take the convicted persons’ wishes into consideration: the decision to grant an amnesty is usually driven by political interests.

Example: Decree of Amnesty dated 2001 with respect to minors and women: about 9% of all prisoners fell under it.


  • is granted by the President with respect to a specific person;
  • is possible only after a sentence has become effective;
  • is usually initiated by the convicted persons themselves: one needs to file a petition.

Example: Decree of Pardon with respect to a Ukrainian servicewoman Nadiya Savchenko who was convicted of murder of VGTRK journalists in Donbass.