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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Seeks To Pass Land Code by April

Parliamentarians said Wednesday that they would try to speed up the passage of the conservative Land Code to prevent President Boris Yeltsin from regulating land ownership by decree.

"We can reasonably expect to get the code through the second reading in March and approve it in April," said Alexei Chernyshov, the Agrarian group member who heads the State Duma committee on agriculture.

The current version of the Land Code would allow collective farm workers to sell their shares in the farms only with the consent of a majority of their fellow workers, while Yeltsin's draft decree, circulated earlier this month, would open up a free market in such shares.

The Agrarians and other conservatives have condemned the draft as unconstitutional and harmful for Russian agriculture.

Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov said after meeting with Yeltsin on Tuesday that the president had promised not to sign the decree if the Duma can pass the Land Code by April.

Yeltsin has threatened to issue the land decree because the Duma has been unable to pass the Land Code for two years.

Last Thursday, Yeltsin told an expanded government meeting that he would sign the land decree in a week. Agrarian deputies said Wednesday he might still do it.

"It does not matter what he's saying now -- he might still sign the decree tomorrow," Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov told reporters in the Duma.

but Kharitonov blamed the legislature's slowness on reformers' objections to the current version of the code.

Pro-reform deputies were strong enough in the old Duma to hold up legislation that conservatives wanted to ram though, but in the current, Communist-dominated parliament there will be little opposition to the Agrarians' land bill.

"We cannot allow land use to be regulated by decree, especially in a situation when we will be sowing under one president and, quite possibly, reaping the harvest under another," Kharitonov said.