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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Far Eastern Region Calls Itself a Republic

The powerful Far East region that serves as the base of Russia's Pacific Fleet defied President Boris Yeltsin and declared itself a republic on Thursday.

The legislature of Primorye Region passed a declaration upgrading its status to that of a republic only two days after Yeltsin denounced a similar decision by his home region of Sverdlovsk as "dangerous and unacceptable".

Interfax quoted legislators in Vladivostok, Primorye's capital and headquarters of the Pacific Fleet, who said their decision to declare a republic was motivated by economic, not political, reasons.

The major economic powers among Russia's 68 territorial regions are increasingly disgruntled over what they perceive as Moscow's preferential treatment of the country's 21 ethnically defined republics.

The regions, some of which are far more populous and economically productive than many of the republics, want equal status with the republics. But the republics have demanded - and in some cases received - special economic and political rights before giving their approval to Yeltsin's proposed new constitution for Russia.

The Primorye legislature, which plans to hold a referendum to confirm its decision, said it would only accept a new constitution if it stipulated that all regions and republics were equal and that none could leave the Russian Federation.

The declaration was illustrative of how the dispute has slowed progress on adopting a new constitution, which Yeltsin wants to use to break his power deadlock with the conservative-dominated parliament. The president's Constitutional Assembly, convened in June, has become bogged down over the issue, twice extending Yeltsin's deadline for finalizing a new draft charter.

Yeltsin arrived in Tokyo on Thursday to attend the summit of leaders from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations where he hopes to obtain formal endorsement of a major assistance package to support his free market reforms.

The president's rivals in parliament, who say these reforms have brought Russia to economic ruin, backed off from further confrontation Thursday after being snubbed by Yeltsin's government.

Parliament had asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to give a report at Thursday's session on the progress made by the government, but Chernomyrdin declined, instead leaving for a two-day trip to Russia's far northern regions.