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russian democracy suffers another blow

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3965845.stm Friday, 29 October, 2004, 17:13 GMT 18:13 Russian Duma backs Putin reforms Russia s parliament has approved a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2004
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      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3965845.stm
      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
      school siege.

      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
      readings.

      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.

      Trained bombers

      During a debate on national security ahead of the
      vote, the Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov
      proposed arresting the relatives of those staging
      terrorist acts.

      He said that showing terrorists what may happen to
      their relatives could be an efficient tool in
      negotiations.

      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
      bloodshed.

      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.
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