russian democracy suffers another blow
Friday, 29 October, 2004, 17:13 GMT 18:13
Russian Duma backs Putin reforms
Russia's parliament has approved a bill to give the
Kremlin more control over the country's regions,
ending direct elections of the 89 regional governors.
Instead they will be nominated by the president, then
confirmed by regional legislatures.
The measure is part of a reform package put forward by
President Putin to boost security after the Beslan
Critics say he is undermining the constitution and
depriving Russians of their democratic rights.
The measure was approved in its first reading after
two hours of debate. Sixty-four deputies voted
against, 365 voted in favour, and four abstained.
The pro-Kremlin United Russia party holds a two-thirds
majority in the lower house of parliament, the Duma.
The bill is expected to pass its two subsequent
An independent liberal member of parliament, Vladimir
Ryzhkov, said the vote amounted to a vote of no
confidence in the Russian people.
"By holding it they declare that the people are not
ready for democracy," he said.
During a debate on national security ahead of the
vote, the Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov
proposed arresting the relatives of those staging
He said that showing terrorists what may happen to
their relatives could be an efficient tool in
During that debate the head of the FSB security
services, Nikolai Patrushev, told parliament that more
than 80 suicide attackers had been trained on foreign
soil to launch strikes in Russia.
However, some attackers have been "neutralised", he
said, although he added he could not guarantee there
would be no further attacks.
Suicide bombers have been responsible for many attacks
in Russia, including the bombing of two planes in
August, which killed more than 90 people.
Mr Patrushev called for the creation of a single
permanent anti-terrorist centre.
He also said the September school hostage drama in
Beslan, North Ossetia, was carried out by Chechen
warlord Shamil Basayev, who has already claimed
responsibility for the attack, blaming Russia for the
The officially death toll for the siege was 360,
including 172 child hostages and 30 members of the
gang which targeted the school. Unofficial estimates
put the number of victims higher.