Valery Abramkin, who died on 25 January aged 66 following a long illness, was a former Soviet dissident, nuclear scientist and rights activist who was held for years in the gulags and later campaigned for prison reform.
Abramkin was head of the Moscow Centre For Prison Reform and a member of the Moscow Helsinki rights group and Vladimir Putin's Presidential Rights Council. "He sincerely strove to contribute to the development and humanisation of national legislation, the strengthening of the modern system of protecting human rights and freedoms of citizens," Putin said.
An advocate of civil liberties and reforms in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, he served six years in prisons and in a Siberian colony for anti-Soviet propaganda before being sent into exile to the Tver region in 1985. While in the camps, Abramkin, who was fired in 1976 from the Moscow Institute of Chemical Technology for "anti-Soviet activity", contracted tuberculosis; its side-effects plagued him for the rest of his life.
In 1988, along with fellow-dissident Andrei Sakharov, he founded the Prison and Liberty group that later became the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform.